Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s “Art Criticism” (1930)
Translated from the German by Philip
Johnson. From Mies van der Rohe.
(Museum of Modern Art. New York, NY: 1947).
• • •
[An impromptu speech delivered at a symposium, “Artists Discuss the Critics.”]
Are not mistakes in judgment natural? For is criticism so easy? Is not true criticism as rare as art? I would like, therefore, to call your attention to the essential nature of criticism, including art criticism. For unless this is clear, there can be no true criticism and demands will be made that critics cannot answer.
The role of the critic is to test a work of art from the point of view of significance and value. To do this, however, the critic must first understand the work of art. This is not easy. Works of art have a life of their own; they are not accessible to every one. If they are to have meaning for us we must approach them on their own terms. That is, at the same time, the opportunity and the limitation of criticism.
Another limitation of criticism is the hierarchy of values, without which there can be no real measurement. True criticism must always serve a set of values.
[From Das Kunstblatt, 1930]