The critical writing competition known as the International Awards for Art Criticism ( IAAC ) represents a field of enquiry more than a source of knowledge or information, and the rewards it offers have particular value in an area where these are slight and rare. The annual presentation ceremony at the Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum each November is eagerly anticipated by the media. It brings together Award Winners, past and present, members of the national and international juries and a range of young artists and writers, in addition to the general public.
Debate is a crucial aspect of the proceedings, and under-pinning this is the IAAC’s steadily growing website, which presents news of the Award Winners, background information about the IAAC and news of its activities and events. Away from this highlight in the calendar, an influential web of communications serves to promote the IAAC and create links between a diverse range of colleagues and professionals worldwide. These activities are reinforced by an occasional series of interim events, designed for writers and critics in China and the UK.
As part of the programme for 2018, we organised a panel discussion at the Royal College of Art, in London, on the theme What Do Critics Owe To Artists?, published as an edited summary in the previous Exhibition Reviews Annual. Last year, we followed this up with another panel discussion at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, in Beijing, between leading exponents from mainland China on the theme Do Artists Need Critics?, an edited version of which is reproduced in the current volume. Here, Shao Yiyang argues persuasively that art critics, far from being irrelevant, play a crucial role in maintaining an independent stance from commercial and political pressures – a position that appears to be supported by Gao Minglu, when he asserts that we should not be worried about talk of a ‘crisis’ in art criticism, or even its death. In Gao’s view, independent thought is more important than ever, in a world where critical certainties are no longer available. As Sui Jianguo tells his students and artist colleagues, ‘We may have done good things back there, but there was no one to write about them.’ He adds that criticism ‘creates a sense of community and connection’. Qiu Zhijie relativises this by stressing the individual nature of the relationship that an artist may establish with a critic, and describes a ‘good critic’ as a ‘sincere friend, who can push an artist forward’. In his opinion, good criticism is not ‘merely’ the result of independent thought, but the product of a fitting economic reward, which alone can underwrite a critic’s independence from the market. Philip Tinari questions the importance of critical ‘judgement’, when the most important task for the critic today would appear to be to stimulate ‘a richer and more diverse understanding of art’. He suggests it is as important to view the individual’s creative output within the immediate context for which it is conceived as in a globalised form of critical discourse. Gao Peng enlarges on the question of a context in which shared values and critical assessments are produced, and warns against an overhasty adoption of values and opinions that are not truly intrinsic to it. A true understanding of context may help us to discuss assumptions that are shared by everyone involved in some form of critical practice – as artist, critic or, indeed, art historian.
We hope you will enjoy the exhibition reviews presented here and appreciate the immense amount of work and commitment shown to the cause of writing about contemporary art, not only by this year’s four Award Winners and the shortlisted candidates selected for the current publication, but also by the over 250 critics and reviewers worldwide who took the trouble to write texts specifically for this competition. As ever, we owe a special debt of thanks to all our jury members, first for the initial selections in Shanghai and London, and then for the final, international round, in Shanghai.
In closing, on behalf of the Board, we would like to express our deep thanks and appreciation to our hosts and partners, both in Shanghai and in London, for the faith they place in us and their indispensable support, and to the numerous individuals who have been involved in this project ( only some of whom are mentioned by name on the colophon page ). We depend on all of them for their generous cooperation.
Henry Meyric Hughes ( Chair ), Lewis Biggs ( Hon. Treasurer ), Juan Cruz, Ling Min. Board of the International Awards for Art Criticism Ltd. ( IAAC ), London and Shanghai.
最后，我们代表IAAC组委会衷心感谢来自上海和伦敦的合作伙伴，感谢他们对我们的信任和不可或缺的支持。同时，也感谢所有参与国际艺术评论奖评选项目的团队（后记中只提到了他们中的一部分）。正是他们的参与和贡献才促成了IAAC 6 的圆满成功！