About Michael Brenson

Michael Brenson – An introduction

Michael Brenson is a highly recognized and respected art critic. Now working as an independent critic in New York, from 1982 to 1991 he wrote about art for the New York Times. There he gained a reputation as a critic who called attention to pressing artistic and cultural issues and created a forum for them within the newspaper. By 1990, he had become identified with particular fields and issues: sculpture, both modern and contemporary; the insularity of the New York art world; an engagement with art institutions that included asking questions about why they show what they show and do what they do; and the sometimes productive and often terrible tension between American artists and society. By the summer of 1991, he realized that his need to explore and deal with these issues could no longer be accommodated within the approaches to art and culture in the newspaper.

In the last dozen years he has taught both curators and artists (Bard College) and curated five exhibitions. He organized a national conference on art and culture for The Rockefeller Foundation and panels for the National Gallery of Art (on art criticism) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (on modern sculpture). He has lectured at numerous museums and given keynote addresses on sculpture, arts policy, and public art. He was a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute in the fall of 1999. His analysis of the natures and purposes of art criticism itself has significantly contributed to the contemporary art dialogue. He is currently the Avery Fellow in Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts.

Michael Brenson is the Fall 2004 Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence at the UW–Madison, his residency sponsored by the Elvehjem Museum of Art and cosponsored by the Department of Art, Department of Art History, Department of Philosophy, and School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

During the 2004 fall semester Brenson will teach a course, Critical Issues in Art Criticism from Rodin Through the Present, under the auspices of the Department of Art History. This interdisciplinary course will emphasize and make use of the breadth and depth of writing on art during the past one hundred and twenty-five years, and is intended to appeal to majors in Journalism, English, Philosophy, Art and Art History. In addition, Brenson will make himself available to conduct studio visits to MFA students in the Department of Art. On November 11 Brenson will give the keynote lecture for a symposium on contemporary art criticism, “Criticism, History and Power,” to be held November 12, 2004, at the Elvehjem Museum of Art. Brenson has invited recognized art critics, artists and curators to participate.


Artist in Residence Home

How did we reach the point where we expect art to respond to the needs and aspirations of peoples and nations? Are there limits to what art can be asked to do? Why have the expectations for art increased at a time when the individual artist is feared, not only in the United States but in many other countries as well, and the artist's voice is being systematically deconstructed? What are the political implications of approaching art as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, or both a means and an end?