I read the above out of context quote from the DC Art News blog, which inspired me to look up its source, a snappy little Guardian article by Jonathan Jones. Critics, Jones argues, don't have to explain their opinions. They just have to "innately know" that something is good.
It was funny to see this in print, since it essentially nails down my problem with most art criticism. I’d like to be a critic myself, because it sounds vaguely glamorous and I enjoy talking about art and all its nuances, but my sticking point has always been explaining why I like something. Nine times out of ten, I don’t know. I have the same problem with music—my default requirement for liking a song is that it’s “catchy,” but that can mean a number of things. Perhaps I’ll think the lyrics are profound as an afterthought, or that the song made me feel hopeful or sad, but beyond that, I don’t know what to say other than a statement so general I might as well not say anything at all.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t seen a piece of art and felt absolutely certain I was looking at a masterpiece—simply that I never knew how to properly explain why it was a masterpiece, without simply describing the qualities of the work itself. And according to Jones, lot of critics face the same problem--they just choose not to see it as one. Most art reviews say an artist is important because he has historical relevance, or that the work is about some sort of big idea that can only be expressed in a certain medium, or simply because they find it beautiful or moving or grand. But the reason your brain thinks a piece of art possesses those qualities and—very perplexingly—why someone else may not, remains a mystery.