Take Five with Tabish Khan
If you are part of the art world in London, you will have probably bumped into Tabish Khan as he visits and writes about hundreds of exhibitions a year covering everything from the major blockbusters to the emerging art scene. He is Art Critic and Visual Arts Editor for The Londonist and writes the Weekly Top exhibition picks and What's Wrong with Art column for FAD Magazine. (You can keep track of his adventures in art via his weekly newsletter.) He is also a judge for art prizes, including the Secret Art Prize 2018. As well as bumping into him at events, we are both trustees of ArtCan, a non-profit arts organisation that supports artists through profile raising activities and exhibitions.
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
There are so many great things about being an art critic, including being surrounded by such brilliant creative and talented people. To pick one it would have to be the opportunity to see such great art and exhibitions - I see approximately 1,000 shows a year and I never get bored of it. Early morning visits have allowed me to have major museums largely to myself and I've worked from the HMS Belfast for a day. It's a privileged position to be in and I'm very appreciative of how enjoyable it is to be an art critic.
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
No, I'm slightly strange in never having had a hero. I'm a firm believer that we're all capable of heroic acts but it's unfair to place any person on a pedestal as we all make mistakes -- it's part of what makes us human. I admire everyone who has found something they are truly passionate about, is hard working and acts graciously and generously towards every person they encounter -- I'm a fan of nice people doing well.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
Be diverse in your interests. I stumbled into writing about art after I had started a corporate career and I think having two very different careers gives me a broader outlook on life that I would have otherwise. We're always at risk at disappearing into the respective bubbles of our industry and experiencing new activities and meeting diverse people really helps us gain perspective and learn about new ideas. I'm slowly getting there but it would've been great to do more diverse activities earlier in my life.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
As a writer the best fix I've read about is to get writing even if it's just nonsense, as often getting started is the hardest part. If my head is really not in it then going for a walk often clears my head. I recognise these are both cliches, but they work for me.
And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
A trainer as I'm constantly moving around London, and I definitely couldn't do my job without a comfy pair of trainers. My current pair are bright red which probably reflects my artistic side trying to express itself over my scientific / corporate background.