January 12, 1954 |
Waldemar Januszczak (born 12 January 1954) is a British art critic. Formerly the art critic of The Guardian, he now writes for The Sunday Times, and has twice won the Critic of the Year award. Januszczak is also a film maker of television arts documentaries and the Director of ZCZ Films.
Waldemar Januszczak was born in Basingstoke, Hampshire to Polish refugees who had arrived in Britain after World War II. His father, a policeman in Poland, whose job had included exposing Communists, found work as a railway carriage cleaner and died, aged 57, when a train ran over him at Basingstoke station. His widow, then aged 33, found work as a dairymaid. Waldemar was one year old.
After studying History of Art at Manchester University, Januszczak became an art critic – and then arts editor – of The Guardian. In 1990 he was appointed Head of Arts at the UK's Channel 4 television and in 1992 he became art critic for The Sunday Times. He has been voted Critic of the Year twice by the Press Association.
Januszczak has been described as "a passionate art lover, art critic and writer. His presentation style is casual but informed, enthusiastic, evocative and humorous. He bumbles about on our TV screens, doing for art what David Attenborough has done for the natural world," and someone who acts out of "a refusal to present art as elitist in any way. He makes it utterly accessible and understandable."
In 1997, he took part in a Channel 4 discussion called The Death of Painting, occasioned by the absence of painters from that year's Turner Prize. The programme was made famous when an apparently drunk Tracey Emin swore at the other participants and left after ten minutes.
In 2002, when insurance broker and art collector Ivan Massow lashed out at conceptual art in general and said that Tracey Emin could not "think her way out of a paper bag", Januszczak observed in a letter to The Independent that "thinking" would not be very helpful in those circumstances.
In 2004 he differed from most critics in his defence of the art of Stella Vine, singling her out for praise in his otherwise hostile review of the Saatchi Gallery's New Blood show ("although I didn't much want to like Vine’s contribution, I found I did. It had something"), and continuing to champion her, seeing "a combination of empathy and cynicism that can be startling." Later that year he was a Christmas special critics edition of the television quiz show University Challenge.
Reviewing the exhibition Americans in Paris at London's National Gallery in 2006, he described James McNeill Whistler's Symphony in White No 1 as "a clumsy bit of cake-making with thick smudges of white rubbed into the canvas in coarse, dry skid marks". "Even Whistler’s renowned mother manages here to underwhelm", he complained. Hoaxed by artist Jamie Shovlin, Januszczak later that year 'revealed' in his paper how the 1970s glam rock band Lustfaust had "cocked a notorious snook at the music industry in the late 1970s by giving away their music on blank cassettes and getting their fans to design their own covers". The band had never existed outside Shovlin's fiction. Januszczak replied that Shovlin should be applauded for his capacity to remind us of the crucial place of the artist in today's society as he made clear that "Reality simply cannot be trusted any more".
In October 2008, Januszczak co-curated a show at the British Museum called Statuephilia, in which modern sculptures by 6 artists were shown next to their more ancient counterparts. The show was inspired during his creation of the series The Sculpture Diaries, a three-part series on sculpture around the world, which was first aired on 31 August 2008 on Channel 4.
Waldemar Januszczak has made many appearances on television, on which medium he has presented programmes on the history of art. He has also made appearances on programmes such as The Culture Show or Newsnight Review.
Januszczak has been making films since 1997 with his production company ZCZ Films.
- The Truth About Art (Channel 4, 1998) about why some subjects have such a hold on the human imagination. (Three-episode series)
- The Lost Supper (Channel 4, 1999) about the restoration of The Last Supper.
- The Cowboy and the Eclipse (Channel 4, 1999) about James Turrell's earthwork sculpture in Cornwall.
- Mad Tracey from Margate (BBC, 1999) about Tracey Emin.
- Puppy Love (Channel 4, 2000) about Januszczak's modest dislike of dogs and intense hatred of dog aficionados.
- Travels in Virtual Japan (Channel 4, 2000) about Japanese technological innovation.
- Building of the Year (Channel 4, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003). Coverage of the annual Stirling Prize for new architecture.
- Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death (Channel 4, 2001) with the artist's friend and biographer, John Richardson. (Three-episode series)
- Gauguin: The Full Story (Channel 4, 2003) about Paul Gauguin.
- Beijing Swings (Channel 4, 2003) about extreme art in Beijing.
- Every Picture Tells A Story (Channel 5, 2003/2004) about the backgrounds of eight masterpieces. (Two 4-episode series)
- Vincent: The Full Story (Channel 4, 2004) about Vincent van Gogh. (Three-episode series)
- Kazakhstan Swings (Channel 4, 2006) about contemporary art in Kazakhstan.
- The Michelangelo Code: Secrets of the Sistine Chapel (Channel 4, 2005).
- Toulouse-Lautrec: The Full Story (Channel 4, 2006) about Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
- Sickert vs Sargent (BBC, 2007) about the war between two immigrants–Walter Sickert and John Singer Sargent–for the soul of British art.
- Paradise Found (Channel 4, 2007) about Islamic architecture and Islamic art.
- The Happy Dictator (Channel 4, 2007) about the former president of Turkmenistan.
- Atlas: Japan Revealed (Discovery Channel, 2008). Series 3, Episode 2 in the Discovery Atlas series. (Januszczak served as executive producer only; not as an on-camera presenter or narrator.)
- The Sculpture Diaries (Channel 4, 2008) about sculptural depictions of women and leaders, as well as earthworks and land art. (Three-episode series)
- Baroque! – From St Peter's to St Paul's (BBC, 2009). An overview of the Baroque in many of its key locations. (Three-episode series)
- Manet: the Man Who Invented Modern Art (BBC, 2009) about Édouard Manet and his influence on art.
- Ugly Beauty (BBC, 2009) about contemporary art.
- William Dobson The Lost Genius of British Art (BBC, 2011)
- Art of the Night (BBC, 2011)
- Impressionists Painting and Revolution (BBC 2011)
- The Dark Ages: An Age of Light (BBC 2012)
Note: Only some of these films have had commercial DVD releases. Most of the remaining films have now become available directly from the ZCZ Films shop.
- On the Turner Prize (1984):
- The British art establishment, having already shown unforgivable ignorance and wickedness in its dealings with Turner's own Bequest to the nation, is now bandying his name about in the hope of giving some spurious historical credibility to a new prize cynically concocted to promote the interest of a small group of dealers, gallery directors and critics.
- On the Turner Prize (1985):
- The Turner Prize, like the rot of the Arts Council, the rise of business sponsorship with strings attached, the growing importance of the PR man in art, the mess at the V&A, and the emergence of the ignorant "art consultant" is the direct result of inadequate government support for the arts. Forced out into the business circus, art has had to start clowning around.
- "Waldemar Januszczak: Searching for the Father I Never Knew", The Sunday Times, January 15, 2006. Retrieved March 29, 2006
- "The Art of Jane Tomlinson" Retrieved March 29, 2006
- "Tracey Emin – Artist", h2g2, BBC Retrieved 29 March 2006
- Letter: Concepts of Art, The Independent, 21 January 2002. Retrieved 29 March 2006
- "The Picture of Health?", The Sunday Times, November 27, 2005. Retrieved March 29, 2006
- "Beck’s Futures", The Sunday Times, April 2, 2006. Retrieved July 14, 2007
- David Lister "You couldn't make it up - but they do", The Independent, 6 May 2006. Retrieved 14 July 2007
- "Seeing is believing - but when is it deceiving?", The Independent, 20 April 2008 Retrieved 3 September 2008
- "Films by Waldemar Janusczak", Movie Mail Retrieved March 28, 2006
- Hidden Civilisation: Paradise Found from Channel4.com Retrieved February 15, 2009
- Devine, Cate (11 March 2009). "The shock of the Baroque". The Herald (Glasgow). Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- Chater, David (13 June 2009). "Saturday's Top TV". The Times (London). Retrieved 14 June 2009.
- The Guardian, November 6, 1984 Retrieved March 28, 2006 from the Tate website
- The Guardian, November 4, 1985 Retrieved March 28, 2006 from the Tate website
- "Vincent, the Full Story" on Channel 4
- "The Michelangelo Code: Secrets of the Sistine Chapel" on Channel 4
- "The Dark Ages: An Age of Light" on BBC Four
- Links to some art analyses by Waldemar Januszczak
- ZCZ Films