New Yorker critic talks art at conference

Sarah King
Contributing Writer

Adam Gopnik, a long-time art critic for The New Yorker,  spoke yesterday at VCU’s Singleton Center.

Gopnik came for the 41st Annual Gathering of the National Council of Arts Administrators, a conference that brought deans, provosts, and professors from across the country to Richmond. Gopnik’s presentation touched on art, philosophy, moral issues, history and science throughout his hour-long lecture.

“Why does this innate creativity stop?” Gopnik asked the audience. “Why are there so many interesting children in the world and so few interesting adults? … One answer is that natural, instinctive curiosity is stifled because we are very uncomfortable with uncertainty.”

Gopnik has been the art critic for The New Yorker in 1987. He has written a slew of books and was named a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2012.

“He’s a very important writer,” said Richard Roth, the co-chairperson of the conference. “He wrote many insightful reviews and is much respected in the art and academic art world.”

The Windmueller Series is a free annual lecture on the arts designated for the VCU community and surrounding Richmond area. The series began in 2004 and has featured Pulitzer-prize winners, NPR commentators, and world-renowned architects and writers amongst others.

“We like him because of his scope,” Roth said. “He writes about art but with the backdrop of larger social context and issues.  He connects big ideas you might not think go together but the way he relates art to the larger picture, society in general, is with an incredibly unique perspective.”

Students in attendance enjoyed Gopnik’s presentation.

“He was a really engaging speaker,” said communication arts student Jada Carpenter.  “He really exuded intelligence, but without coming off as snobbish or pretentious, which is crazy considering how well-respected he is within the art world.  He was humorous, thought provoking, and poised.  I really enjoyed what he had to say for the full time that he was saying it.”

Gopnik concluded the lecture on a philosophical note.

“Wherever we look, the realm of magic or drawing or music, what we find is a complicated play between doing things and doubting things, our ability to create things with technical perfection, and our need to see that technical perfection humanized,” he said. “That play back and forth between doubt and doing, and perfection and imperfection is what draws us into art and the making of the arts and the appreciation of the arts. That’s what’s important.”


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