The Sunday Times
Different times place different demands on the work of a critic. Sometimes it’s easy – you laugh, you enjoy, you smile, you write. Other times, things grow more complex and the critic has to deal with a darker range of issues. A lesser critic than Waldemar might have ignored the storm clouds that have gathered on 2022’s horizon, but not Waldemar. His writing on the art situation in Ukraine brought completely different insights to this sudden and terrifying European conflict. Where other critics stayed in their living rooms, Waldemar was brave and passionate enough to journey to Lviv and report on the extraordinary efforts to save Ukraine’s art. As he wrote in the piece ’When things grow dark, art gets real. And it suddenly matters more.’ 2022 was also the year of Elizabeth II, first as a Platinum Queen and then as a departed presence. The torrents of writing produced in her honour in 2022 covered every imaginable angle of Elizabeth’s illustrious reign. You would have thought there was nothing new to add on the subject. But you’d be wrong, as Waldemar proved with his witty and informative look back at the Queen’s artistic image – its successes and its failures. The art critic’s main job, of course, is to tell what people what to see and why they should see it. And here too Waldemar has had a champagne year. His punchy review of the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Royal Academy saw him taking on a subject that many have written about before - the art of Britain’s most celebrated postwar painter. But Waldemar, as always, treated the show as an opportunity to discover something new. The result was a piece of writing that sparkled with passion and insight. As we emerge from the Covid era, get out of our houses at last, Waldemar’ work has become increasingly pertinent. A statistic the newspaper industry seems rarely to remember is that more people go to art galleries in Britain than go to football matches. Art can seem like a detached and exclusive subject, but it is actually a valuable window onto the wider world. In the hands of the right critic it offers insights that are fresh, inventive and different from other critical fields. Nor should the difficulty of writing about art in a manner that is welcoming and witty be underestimated. To write compellingly about art requires rare knowledge and a powerful desire to communicate. All of which is abundantly true of Waldemar Januszczak.