Short interview with Patricia Bickers, art historian, editor and critic.

Gil Dekel: What motivates you to speak about art and explore it? In what way art touches you? [1]

Patricia Bickers: I like the fact that while you may learn a great deal about art through experience as well as research, you can never, in the true sense, be an expert because the field is so subjective and ill-defined. Even better, unlike an historical event, art objects – even conceptual and ephemeral ones – continue to exist in some form for future generations to comment upon so that your view is not definitive. [2]

Do you see your critical essays as artefacts, or as observation on the art of others, perhaps? [3]

In most cases – if not all – criticism is a reactive form and therefore it cannot, in my view, be regarded as creative in its own right. [4]

Do you feel that editing removes personal opinion from analysis or exploration of art works? [5]

No, I do not think editing removes personal opinion, but then, Art Monthly magazine (which I edit) does not have to maintain the supposed balance of an institution like the BBC. [6]

Do you need to be ‘inspired’ in order to analyse a work of art? [7]

I wouldn’t put it quite so grandly, but certainly you need to be stimulated by a work of art to write about it. [8]

How do you see the role of contemporary artists in society? Has this role changed over the years? [9]

This is too big an issue for a short interview like this. I will only say that artists in the 21st Century are much closer to their public(s) than they were in the previous century. As to the first part of the question, I don’t think the role of artists has been decided since the Renaissance uncoupled the artist from the Church and the State. I do believe, however, that art, and therefore artists, provide a vital discursive space where the unthinkable can be thought and expressed. [10]

Do you have preference to specific periods, or art movements, in the history of art? [11]

The Renaissance period in Florence, where I began, and modern and contemporary art. [12]

Did your upbringing affect your creative expression as an editor, and the way you perceive art? [13]

I don’t think so, except, perhaps, to give me a fascination with history (my father was an historian). [14]

I am sure you have made many choices while editing the interviews book Talking Art (2007). Can I ask you specifically why did you choose to include Naum Gabo, Jasper Johns, Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt and Gustav Metzger? [15]

There are so many reasons to include Naum Gabo. He was one of the few bona fide pioneer modernists who actually lived in Britain for a while (as opposed to going to New York). His politics also chimed with those of the magazine, an element in the choice of many of the others, like Gustav Metzger, though obviously not in the case of Gilbert & George! [16]

Jasper Johns is so important, not least as an artist who took painting out of the cul-de-sac that Abstract Expressionism had become, while Sol Lewitt is one of the key artists of this or any generation and was very much associated with the magazine’s early days. [17]

Anish Kapoor was largely chosen because he had been selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, marking a welcome break from heavy metal sculptors. [18]

» A review of Talking Art (2007) edited by Patricia.

15 September 2008

© Patricia Bickers and Gil Dekel.
Interview conducted via email correspondence (September 2008).
Patricia Bickers is based in London, UK. Gil Dekel is based in Southampton, UK.