Dominic Green

Critical Sensation

Exhibitionist: Writing about Art in a Daily Newspaper

By Richard Dorment

Wilmington Square Books 528pp £25 order from our bookshop

‘Mediocrity weighing mediocrity in the balance, and incompetence applauding its brother – that is the spectacle which the artistic activity of England affords us from time to time,’ says Gilbert the aesthete in Wilde’s ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1891). The Nineties – the 1990s, that is, not the 1890s – were one of those times. In the days of Cool Britannia and the Young British Artists (YBAs), a lukewarm slick of self-congratulation covered the critical landscape like slurry at a piggery.

Richard Dorment was the Daily Telegraph’s lead art critic in those years. Between 1986 and 2015, Dorment wrote more than a thousand reviews. Exhibitionist brings together just over one hundred of them – arranged not in order of composition, but in order of the period they cover. This structure emphasises art and art history over their epiphenomena, the developing sensibility and expressions of the critic. For all Wilde’s asseverations about criticism being ‘creative in the highest sense of the word’, this is surely the proper relationship between art and analysis.

Subscribe to read the full article


University of Chicago Press

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Costume of the life force? Words fail.' Germaine Greer on an ode to the condom ,
    • It's Write on Kew for the next four days. There are free copies of Literary Review about; why not dip your toe into the magazine?,
    • Which sci-fi author time-travelled to ancient Rome and lived a parallel life a persecuted Christian named Thomas? ,
    • You can pick up free copies of Literary Review at Write On Kew, which begins tomorrow. Fill your boots (with magazines).,
    • Michael Burleigh reads a survey of the rise of Asia ,
    • The Book of Kells, the Codex Amiatinus and the Carmina Burana: manuscript celebrities ,
    • 'Her bias is firmly towards all that is subterranean, hidden, buried, cavernous': Gillian Tindall explores Crossrail ,