Jonathan T.D. Neil on “professionalization” vs. “academicization.”

June 15, 2009 · Print This Article

Jesus, I had to check the spelling of that last word like, four times. Those of you who enjoyed Duncan’s conversation with James Elkins about the art Ph.D. a few weeks back might want to check out The Drawing Center Executive Editor Jonathan T. D. Neil’s post today over at Artworld Salon: “What’s wrong with “professionalization”?:

“What, I have to ask, is wrong with professionalization? What are we really criticizing when we deride the graduates of MFA and PhD programs for nothing more than simply having done what one would expect them to do, which is to go and learn about the enterprise in which they are interested? I suspect that lurking behind such statements lies a romanticized and outmoded notion of the artistic subject—which is to say, of the kind of subjectivity (autodidactic, at odds with decorum and the status quo, sometimes tortured, often difficult, always independent—i.e. an ideal of bourgeois bohemianism) that continues to cling to the definition of the “artist” today like some itchy fungus.”

Interestingly, Neil’s arguments in this post aren’t nearly as nuanced and informed as were those that took place over here on the same subject, but I think he does usefully remind his readers that there’s a difference (or at least, there should be) between ‘academicization’ and ‘professionalization’ when it comes to the pursuit of higher education among artists.