This podcast episode explores the role of art criticism, especially the question whether critics can establish a standard for determining what constitutes beauty in art. For this episode, I took inspiration from my thesis where I assessed three thinkers who offer contrasting perspectives on this matter: David Hume, Pierre Bourdieu, and Alexander Nehamas.

Hume, in his work Of The Standard of Taste, suggests that although aesthetic judgments are subjective, they can be assessed by competent critics. This is not to say that there is an objective standard for beauty, but that judgements made by those possessing certain qualities that make for a good critic hold more weight. Pierre Bourdieu, in his work Distinction, contends that taste is shaped by social factors, such as cultural upbringing and class distinctions, thereby challenging the notion of such a standard and arguing instead that taste is a marker of social class that perpetuates already existing hierarchies. In order to show that elitism and social power is not all there is to art criticism, I introduced Alexander Nehamas' ideas from his book, Only a Promise of Happiness, presenting a view of critics who, instead of imposing a standard, are encouraging us to engage with artworks on a personal level, inducing a diversity of interpretations and evaluations.

In this podcast episode, I will take these thinkers as my inspiration for interviewing Katrin Heinrich, an art historian and critic based in Vienna. She studied art history and comparative literature at the University of Vienna, and currently she works in research support at the University of Music and Performing Arts. Kathrin is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, where she was on a scientific staff from 2020 to 2022, has taught courses and co-organized a research project called Addressing Amnesia, Performing Trauma. Her writing has been published in newspapers and magazines like Der Standard, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frieze, Texte zur Kunst, Springerin, Eikon and PW Magazine. In 2018, she was awarded the AICA Austria Prize for Young Art Criticism.

 (music for intro and outro is by Lili Kátai, playing an improvised version of Debussy's Arabesque L. 66 No. 1 in E Major on piano)

Special thanks to Thomas Aichinger and Cathy Mason.

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