Waldemar Januszczak

Waldemar Januszczak

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. Waldemar 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. [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2099-1972364,00.html "Waldemar Januszczak: Searching for the Father I Never Knew", The Sunday Times, January 15, 2006] Retrieved March 29, 2006]

The young Januszczak attended Divine Mercy College, a school for the children of Polish refugees which the Congregation of Marian Fathers had set up at Fawley Court, Henley-on-Thames.


After studying History of Art at Manchester University, Januszczak became 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. [http://www.channel4.com/more4/personalities/waldemar.html]

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 bimbles 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." [http://www.janetomlinson.com/journal/index.php?show=0,10,2005 The Art of Jane Tomlinson] Retrieved March 29, 2006]

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. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A3784782 "Tracey Emin – Artist", h2g2, BBC] Retrieved 29 March 2006]

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. [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20020121/ai_n9671585 Letter: Concepts of Art, The Independent, 21 January 2002] Retrieved 29 March 2006]

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." [http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14933-1890920,00.html "The Picture of Health?", The Sunday Times, November 27, 2005] Retrieved March 29, 2006] Later that year he was a Christmas special critics edition of the television quiz show University Challenge.

Reviewing 2006's London National Gallery "Americans in Paris" exhibition, 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'. [ [http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article698383.ece "Beck’s Futures", The Sunday Times, April 2, 2006] Retrieved July 14, 2007] The band had never existed outside Shovlin's fiction. [ [http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/david_lister/article362338.ece "You couldn't make it up - but they do", The Independent, 6 May 2006] Retrieved 14 July 2007] 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". [ [http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article3758110.ece "Seeing is believing - but when is it deceiving?", The Independent, 20 April 2008] Retrieved 3 September 2008]


Januszczak has been making films for many years, and since 1997 with his production company "ZCZ Films."
*ATLAS: Japan Revealed (Discovery Channel, 2008)
*The Happy Dictator (Channel 4, 2007) about the former president of Turkmenistan
*"Toulouse-Lautrec: The Full Story" (Channel 4, 2006)
*Sickert vs Sargent (BBC, 2006)
*"The Michelangelo Code: Lost Secrets of the Sistine Chapel" (Channel 4, 2005)
*Kazakhstan Swings (Channel 4, 2005) about contemporary art in Kazakhstan
*"Gauguin: The Full Story" (Channel 4, 2005)
*"Vincent: The Full Story" (Channel 4, 2004) about Vincent van Gogh
*"Picasso: Magic, Sex And Death" (Channel 4, 2000), with the artist's friend and biographer, John Richardson, [http://www.moviemail-online.co.uk/directors/2277 "Films by Waldemar Janusczak", Movie Mail] Retrieved March 28, 2006]
*"Mad Tracey from Margate" (BBC 1999) about Tracey Emin


*"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. [http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize/history/critics.htm The Guardian, November 6, 1984] Retrieved March 28, 2006 from the Tate website]
*"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. [http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize/history/critics.htm The Guardian, November 4, 1985] Retrieved March 28, 2006 from the Tate website]

ee also

*Other contemporary UK art critics:David Lee:Adrian Searle:Louisa Buck:Matthew Collings:Edgar West:Brian Sewell:Sarah Kent


External links

* [http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/V/vincent/img_januszczak.html "Vincent, the Full Story" on Channel 4]
* [http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/M/michelangelo_code/index.html "The Michelangelo Code: Secrets of the Sistine Chapel" on Channel 4]
* [http://www.artchive.com/critic.htm Links to some art analyses by Waldemar Januszczak]
* [http://www.zczfilms.com "ZCZ Films"]

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