Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Critics still wield power.

Although last year there was a great deal of agreement that critics simply didn't have the clout that they had in the 20th century (notably Greenberg, of course) it seems that getting a good review in the New York Times helps increase attendance at a local gallery. In the preface to his June 7th blog, Edward Winkelman writes:

We were fortunate enough to receive a glowing review in The New York Times for our last exhibition by Joe Fig. We felt the work deserved the review, but we feel that way about nearly every show. We were very appreciative of the interest and insight of the critic, whom I've known a number of years and always find charming and very smart and a man of integrity.

And yet it's terribly daunting to realize the power all the critics of The New York Times wield. The day the review appeared the phone started ringing promptly at 11:00 when we opened and virtually never stopped, and we had literally more than 30 times the normal number of people come by (we counted), often with a cutout copy of the review in hand.

It definitely helps if you have a good show up on the walls that people can enjoy and it helps to get any kind of press coverage. Thirty times your normal attendance just boggles the mind. If your daily attendance hovers around 10 people... that's 300 people. Pretty shocking what a difference a review can make.

The New York Times has certainly maintained its reputation and influence in arts reviews. Not all newpapers succeed in establishing an arts editorial staff that can generate a following that responds. Also, New Yorkers may be more likely to respond to reviews than the inhabitants of many other cities. In which case, this particular x30 effect might not occur in your neighborhood (sigh)... but nevertheless, at least we have one documented case of +coverage = +audience. Thanks to a blogger!