Artwriting is a philosophical study of the history of recent American art criticism. Carrier argues that an artwork can be understood only relative to interpretation, a function of criticism. But unlike art history, art criticism cannot arrive at a consensus about what makes a "true" interpretation of an artwork. Criticism can only appeal to the persuasiveness of alternative critical narratives in determining an artwork's meaning and value. Carrier begins by comparing Greenberg's theory of modernism to Ernst Gombrich's history of the naturalistic tradition and shows that genealogies of art styles are not adequate bases for choosing between art interpretations. He then demonstrates why Michael Fried's and Adrian Stokes' alternative antihistorical attempts to ground art interpretation in the presentness of an artwork are also inadequate. Explaining how art critics interested in structuralism have begun to overcome the limitations of these approaches leads Carrier to contemporary criticism. All of these viewpoints, he concludes, have been superseded in part by an awareness that today the role of criticism can be understood only in relation to the art market system in which critics as well as artists, dealers, collectors and museums play a role.
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