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23 June 2008updated 27 Sep 2015 2:30am

Celebrity or artist?

By Heather McRobie

Giving your first novel a title as earnest as “All The Sad Young Literary Men” was probably always going to invite the playground bullies of cultural commentary, and New York writer Keith Gessen has been at the receiving end of increasingly critical attacks by influential New York gossip website Gawker in the last few weeks, in which Gessen is accused of elitism and pretentiousness. The author meanwhile retorted by accusing the website of malaciously attempting to destroy other’s careers.

The frequent snipes and counter-snipes between the internet site and Gessen, culminated in the n+1 journal editor, blogging about his attempts to defend himself, and announcing a “Take Back The Internet” party in the wake of his experience.

Neither side comes off particularly well in the exchange, which, depending on who you read, either reflects a profound, post-modern awareness of the Debordian spectacle, or simply that narcissistic young writers and journalists will do anything to keep their name in the spotlight. Or both.

Leibovitz: Artist Of Celebrity?

While Keith Gessen has been rebuked for responding to the media, renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz has been both criticised and celebrated for shaping it. The announcement this week that the National Portrait Gallery will run a retrospective of the photographer’s work was greeted positively for the most part, with journalist Mark Brown praising the more personal aspects of Leibovitz’s newer works. In a departure from her usual territory of celebrity photographs for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, the new exhibition will also feature touching portraits from Leibovitz’s personal life, including a series chronicling the final days of her long-term partner Susan Sontag. However, Michael Glover at The Independent criticised Leibovitz’s celebrity portraits for being “too machine-like, too studied, too much in calculated anticipation of the effects”. He observes that “to be chosen by Leibovitz is a kind of benediction by a celebrity”, implying that, like Gessen, Leibovitz is engaged in uncomfortable interplay between hype and art.

In brief

It was only a matter of time before Euro 2008 made its way into the culture sections of the media, and blogger Paul MacInnes began with an analysis of football-chants which take their inspiration from the White Stripes and Joy Division. In the Times, writer Jeanette Winterson lived out every nerd’s greatest dream – spending an evening backstage at the British Library. And the inaugural Folkestone Triennial art exhibition was praised variously as “thoughtful” and “magical”, and a good excuse for a day trip to the seaside. Featuring new work by acclaimed artists such as Mark Wallinger, the festival runs until 14 September.

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