I am Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine's art critic. Ask me anything about art, or everything. Keep your heads down and your helmets on.
Hi reddit, my name is Jerry Saltz and I have been an art critic since longer than most of you have been alive. I was a long-distance truck driver (the only Jewish one, I think). I have no degrees whatsoever (well, I do have three honorary doctorates, call me a proctologist). I love art. I love the art world. You might remember me from Bravo's show Work of Art where I was a judge. I recently appeared in Jay-Z's Picasso Baby video. And I've been with NY Mag since 2007.
Ask me anything.
Edit: Thanks for the questions, Reddit. You made my day. I love being in contact with readers. I seek the 100,000-headed beast. Call me Ahab.
Don't go to a museum with a destination. Museums are wormholes to other worlds. There are ecstasy machines. Follow your eyes to wherever they lead you, stop, get very quiet, and the world should being to change for you. And if you see me, say something! We can talk about it together.
Hey Jerry, you've written quite extensively on why you think the current art market is flawed. So I'm wondering more about the opposite of the spectrum. What is your vision for an ideal art market and how do you think we can achieve that today?
Top question. I know I want artists to make money, and galleries, and I have nothing against collectors getting rich. But somehow all of this has gone way way off the deep end. But it will re-adjust soon enough. And art will go from being part of the 1% to its normal place of being part of the 5%.
Hold on and never, ever, think of the market in your studios.
Hi Jerry, this is @MarlanaAdele from Twitter. My question: During your career have you ever critiqued a particular body of work, artist or show, then revisited later to find that your opinion was drastically different?
I thought the late Steven Parrino sucked. He made monochromatic paintings with canvas bunched up all over. But every young artist in the early 2000s loved his work. Around 2005 I finally saw why.
Rule No. 2: Always listen to artists.
Come on, you can admit it, nobody from Work of Art will ever be "the next great artist," right?
I really like the work of Peregrine Honig, who was a contestant on the show. Look her up, She's in Kansas City and she also owns one of the greatest lingerie shops in this country, Birdies. I do all my shopping there. TMI?
Hi Jerry! I'm in grad school for art journalism, and sort of feeling like this was a terrible move. Granted, you and a few others just won't let the field die, but I think the program is putting the weight of "the future of art criticism" on our shoulders. There's only 8 of us in the program. I don't think that is an appropriate weight distribution ratio. Any thoughts to help us save the field? Thanks!
You ARE the future of art criticism, yo!
Grow. A. Pair.
Never JUSt write enthusiastic reviews, or ONLY negative reviews, or two lines of snark: BE OPIONATED. Or die. Really. There is NO money in what we do. Do you know what that means? It means that you have NOTHING to lose! You are armed and dangerous, man. Now get out there; cover the artists and gallerists of YOUR generation! Now! And write reviews in fucking English, will you, for fuck's sake! I have NO idea what most of the stuff in Artforum is saying. No one does.
I know next to nothing about art but I read you in NY Mag all the time. My question is: What's one book you'd recommend to someone interested in art and learning more but with next-to-no-knowledge of art history/the art world?
OFF THE WALL by Calvin Tompkins. It's about how artists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham made the train of American art history jump off the tracks, and land on a new track - the one we're still huffing along on. And, it's an easy read. He writes in English, for God's sake.
What an honour to see you on Reddit, Mr. Saltz! I'm a moderator for /r/ArtSphere, we share essays and short critical pieces on art, and I've got a question I've wanted to ask you ever since you wrote your essay, The Trouble with Mega-Galleries.
If you were to start your own gallery, how would it function? Who or what works would you represent?
Great question. But all gallerists are missing the same chromosome. I'm missing a different one, which means I would never be an art dealer. I don't want to work with artists. I never ask artists anything when I am writing on their work. I trust gallerists. I go to 20 or 30 galleries every week. I have done this my whole life, so I better believe in galleries.
Hi Jerry! What are your thoughts on Mayor Bloomberg saying that the MET can basically charge whatever they want. Do you think that the MET should or should it stay at the "pay whatever you want" price? A mandatory $25 is pretty steep for a ticket. Viewing art should be really easily accessible to anyone who wants to see it in, my opinion.
This is a widely misunderstood issue. Bloomberg actually has made it possible for the Museum to be free in perpetuity. It is a voluntary admission fee. I always pay $1. I wish that all museums were free. Artists always figure out a sneaky way to get in for free. Fake IDs, whatever it takes. Never pay. Make a fake press pass for all I care. They will never stop you.
There have been a few record sales prices in the recent months and years. Do you feel the art market has rebounded from it lows in the at the turn of the decade? What do you feel should happen to the masterpieces recently discovered in Germany?
Good questions. First the work found in Germany constitute a HISTORY CHANGING cache of art. Sadly, however, the real winners of this will probably be the 1000s of lawyers and the heinous auction houses that will swoop in and try to sell the art. My guess is that we won't see this art in our lifetimes.
Favorite museum or gallery in the city?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the greatest, encyclopedic museum on Earth. Sorry, Louvre, your architecture is stupid, and everyone gets lost there. At The Met, you see art within 25 feet of the door. At the Louvre, you've got to walk a half-mile. Fix this.
Who doesn't like fish?
Tell me if my art stinks then.
Doesn't stink. You're more of an illustrator right now. You're vision is kind of conventional, too. You've got a great skill set, but not much of an original idea of process, how you make things, surface, color, and inner-life. But you don't have to quit. Just draw everyday.
what did you think of the Mike Kelley retrospective at MoMA PS1?
Very moving. There are few artists working today who don't owe Kelly some debt of gratitude and influence. Bravo, MoMA/PS1.
Who was your favorite artist to meet?
I have to say, although she's more of a meta-artist, it was Cynthia Plaster Caster. You know who she is? Just look up her name and Jimi Hendrix.
Jerry, Between David Byrne and Patti Smith, et al. there's been a lot of scuttlebutt about NYC not being a great place for a young artist. What are your thoughts?
Wrong, wrong, wrong. I have not seen the city so open since the late 1970s. Kids can now live in a crappy dump in any borough, except Staten Island--I don't go there, I think it's like Mob Wives and I'm scared. So young artists, come East. We have many, many uniforms for you. Come here, have your nervous breakdowns, get insomnia, and like vampires everywhere, be with as many of your own kind as possible. If you build it, we will watch.
Hi Jerry! I'm 80% sure I saw you at ArtPrize and I was curious what you thought about the whole event.
- Are there some benefits to keeping the art world kind of "walled off"?
- Does Grand Rapids have certain advantages over other non-New York cities? Disadvantages?
Is NYMag as fun to work at as I think it would be?
I LOVE ArtPrize. I believe in what I call "The Two-State Solution" of ArtPrize. There is one prize awared by the public. There is one prize awarded by artsy jurors.
Usually the two sides don't like one another's choices.
But we can all get along.
I LOVE ArtPrize.
As a former student of yours at an MFA program, I was wondering why you take such issue with them as institutions that take more than they give, but still continue to take their money as a professor. It seems like an obvious conflict of interest. Are you not in fact one of the people taking the money out of artists pockets? How many MFA programs are you listed as a professor at and accept money from to lecture?
I only teach at one school now, The Art Institute of Chicago, my hometown. I love this school and I need this money. I do not hate art schools, I think they are merely much too expensive and that students aren't getting everything that they pay for. But I would agree, if there is a problem in art schools I would be a part of that problem.
Banksy came to New York and the entire North East talked about art for a month yet you said it was bad. Dafuq?
I didn't say it was bad that we talked about art. I said Banksy is a bad artist. In your heart you know I'm right. But I love that we all talked about art together. More, more -- but not Banksy, please.
Jerry, would you pay $140 million dollars for a Francis typtych? If you had the cash?
Auctions make me sick. I can't stand them. They're ruining the art world. They change the conversation from art to money, from quality to quantities, and now those quantities are mass quantities. Hey did you ever notice the word tities is in quantities?
The Francis Bacon is completely predictable. A middle-brow painting by a middle-brow painter painting another middle-brow painter.
Hi Mr. Saltz--
What is your opinion on the situation at the Detroit Institute of Arts right now? Or the ongoing proliferation of ruin porn of Detroit?
We are all Detoiters. All Americans are Detroiters right now. I tell you this here, now: This museum will sell its treasures over my dead body. Which may die soon, anyway. Stop with the ruin porn. Although it always does look amazing. It's getting generic, though.
Jerry, do you think other art critics are jealous because they don't have their own an action figure?
This idiot Sucklord, yes, that's his ridiculous name, made this action figure of me. I don't think it looks anything like me, other than it's bald. I hear he made a bundle from it. I got nothing. I'm happy for him. All artists should make all the money they want. You know I love you, artists. Not you, Sucklord.
Jerry, you are a well known figure on FB and other online platforms. Is this just the beginning of your reddit supremacy?
I love the smell of reddit supremacy in the morning.
hi Jerry This is @peterfunch Do you think Kanye West should curate the 2015 Venice Art Biennale
Who's the biggest fraud in Art?
The dick-waving, masters of the universe, hedge fund art collectors who only buy what other dick-waving, masters of the universe collectors buy. What the market creates, let the market destroy. Bwahaha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Do you feel Warhol was a better Painter, Filmaker, or Celebrity?
In the history of the world, no one ever put those colors together before Warhol did. No one ever had images skidding over one another. Warhol changed the way the world looks and the way we look at the world. That is fucking revolutionary.
How often do artists ask what you think of their work? What do you say when it's terrible?
They ask often. I say it's terrible when I think it is terrible and then I say why. Don't ask if you don't want to hear.
Do you actually read all of your facebook replies in their entirety?
Yes, absolutely. They. Complete. Me. I can't live if living is without them.
How do two married critics keep some sense of matrimonial peace in the house? Seriously. Help. I'm a critic that's going to marry one of the best young art critics in NYC and we're both too bullheaded for our own good. How do you keep it in the broadsheets and out of the bedsheets?
You are about to have the most extraordinary life lived in art that you can possibly imagine. In my case, my wife is by far the superior critic. I am in awe of her work. I like mine, too, so it's really, really easy for two critics to be together. You will talk about art every minute of every day for the rest of your lives. But, you will be poor until you die. I promise you this.
Is photography dead?
The art world thinks it's an undertaker. First, painting is dead. The novel is dead. Now everyone wants to know if photography is dead. The weird thing is, it IS dead in one way: when you are my age, there will be no more chemical film, no more chemical developing of film, and no more enlargers. The medium is in flux.
I would give anything to be a photographer right now. Photography is the easiest thing to make, and one of the hardest things to make well.
My pictures stink.
Any up and coming artists you've seen recently that you're really excited about seeing more from?
Right now at Canada, a gallery on the Lower East Side, is a young painter named Michael Williams. Check it out and let me know what you think. I think he is developed one of the most interesting surfaces I have seen in a long time. I have to go back though. How about you?
Mr Saltz, serious question: Has an artwork ever gotten you sexually aroused? If so, which? (Okay, playful but serious nonetheless).
A Matisse once got me all hot and bothered. Truth.
I used to masturbate to Ingres' Turkish bath painting as a child, which I guess isn't as bad as the weather woman. And you? Do girls do this, too?
Could you describe a time you revisited a work of art and found yourself changing your view on it completely?
I never used to like the work of Louise Bourgeois. After she died, and there were numerous exhibitions of her work, I have to say I came around to her vision, her updated version of surrealism, and her magical drawings. I still hate the spiders.
How did you become an art critic, and what is your advice for someone looking to do it today, besides blogging?
edit: I too am a huge fan and extremely excited about this AMA. We're twitter/facbook buds, Jerry!
Thank you. I became an art critic by calling myself an art critic when I was a long-distance truck driver. Have you ever tried to write? Until then, I had never written anything in my life. It's the worst thing on Earth. You can't listen to music when you write, you're alone 16 hours a day, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Just be whatever you are and tell people that's what you are and then prove it. See you in the Twitterspehere.
We know you're not a fan of Banksy, but how do you feel about graffiti art at large?
Have you any favorite street artists?
I love art in the streets. I love art anywhere. Put the Mona Lisa in a closet and I will look at it. I love the chaos of New York. I don't want the street art to be cleaned up. I just wish that so much of it wouldn't look the same; you know squiggly letters of the artists name in day-glow. You gotta be better than that.
I do like Barry McGree and Swoon very much.
I just finished watching Breaking Bad and I know that you recently watched it as well. Reddit (along with the rest of the Internet) has a strong following of the series. What do you see is the future trajectory of Television into the contemporary art dialog?
This is the golden age of television. We're living it. The Wire is better than any film being made today at a fraction of the price and the thing is like, 75 hours long. All movies should stop these days after 1 hour.
Jerry? Do you have something against Gabriel Orozco? His early fotografs are GENIUS.
Love those pictures. I love the yogurt tops, but the guy fell into a rut and just makes those circle paintings and those curvy prints, and a lot of other non-thinking product. My number one rule, however, is I never count an artist out.
Where do you and Roberta go on date nights?
We look at art. That is all that we do. You will see us on Friday and Saturday nights at the Met.
What's your favorite dessert?
Ginger cookies. And I love cashews.
Why should anyone listen to you any more or any less than someone with an academic background studying art?
They shouldn't! You pick and choose who you listen to. I trust some food critics; I don't trust others. Same with music critics and art critics.
Don't read me if you don't trust me. (But I wish you would read me.)
Jerry, can we go see art together? That's all.
I never see art with anyone except my wife. But, if you see me out there in the trenches, please, please say hello. Tell me what you think, I'm all ears.
Throughout history, why have some artists become famous and others remained unknown? Is it because their work is groundbreaking, something that has never been done before?
The short-hand answer for this is "yes." A more complicated answer would be, for example, in the West, women were not allowed to be artists until the 19th century. So, 400 generations of women artists are lost. So, this is a complex question.
There is a line of thought out there that anything and everything that an artist labels as "art" qualifies as such. I don't believe that simply slapping the "art" label on something meets the criteria for something to actually be considered or qualify as such. Is holding art to a standard censorship?
An artist can call whatever they make art. That's fine with me. Our job is to decide if it is good or bad art.
What is the role of critics in art? How should the artist interact with critics?
- Be nice.
- Never use your sales pitch on a critic.
- Be as honest as you can, I already know you want me to write on your work.
- Don't be afraid of negative criticism.
- There is a grain of truth to all criticism.
- Focus on critics of your own generation. The geezers can't do much for you.
Critics should be critical. I can't stand it that about four generations of critics learned to write only enthusiastically or only descriptively or just write snark. These are the easy ways out. Being critical of art is a way of showing art respect.
What do you think about the new high of $142.4M for a work of art?
Yawn. Do we really care? Dick-wavers will wave their dicks. It is what they do. Same as it ever was. No impact on INNER-LIFE of art. Not on mine, at least.
Jerry, what are your thoughts on the work of Arthur Danto, and where do you see the nature of contemporary art heading in the near future?
I never really read him. I know that many in the art world respect him enormously. I am very very bad at philosophy, however. Almost the second I start to read it I get sleepy. But I dig the people who dig it.
Do you have a favorite artist, or is that not allowed?
Not to be coy, I am lucky to have seen real 50,000 year old cave paintings. These are the most powerful images of mammals ever made. In a way, that would make these artists the greatest I have ever seen. By the way the second most common things in the caves are hand prints. We now know that 51% of these hands are women's hands. Whoa! Guess what the third most common thing depicted on all cave walls is? Va-jay-jays and wieners.
Jerry, You talk a lot about young artists vs geezers. What about someone middle age who want to emerge into the scene. Any hope in making a splash?
These days, yes. Everything is falling apart, except at the very top. This leaves the middle and the bottom open and porous again. My advice, other than making every art every free minute of every day, is show up. Go to galleries. Go to openings. Be around other vampires. Renoir once said, "No great artist in a Hamlet." He meant, artists must be around other artists in order to be other artists at all. Show up, Morcutt. I'll be watching.
Hi Jerry!! You're awesome!!! Do you think that its heathy for artists to be examining modernism in the 21st century? Do you think that some of those styles can have relevance today, or did pop art end it all. I'm so over pop art. Except Lichtenstein (mostly). Also, does my art stink??? www.jonblatchford.net
Listen, ALL art is contemporary art. ALL art is "useful" to artists. From Cave Painting till today. Everything. Eat the world. Crap it out. Eat that crap. Crap it out. Embrace chaos. And take better care of your teeth, kid.
I really love Marina Abramovic and I was wondering what you thought of the Picasso Baby video? Did it raise questions about the art world for you? Or was it just another marketing ploy?
I was there. I fell in love with Jay Z's smile. I slept with him for one night, and readers have been calling me a "slut" ever since. I don't think the "Picasso Baby" video is art, I think it is a music video. However, and not to hurt your feelings, daaaaaanknugs, I think Jay Z is better than Marina. I'm sorry. I'm not being flip. She's a bit heavy-handed, ponderous, and affected for me. But we'll trust you on this one.
What can today's museums do to better engage their audience and avoid being seen as mausoleums?
Just think independently. Don't just think about market share, and for God's sake, don't just show the same fifty-five artists that all fifty-five international curators persist in showing. It's boring. Stop it. Exercise your own taste. If we don't like it, we'll tell you. As you were.
is there any value placed on asthetics in the modern art world today? Is there a market today for loosely figurative (but not realistic) art today? Like the way Marie Laurencin, Matisse, Modigliani etc... were in the beginning of the century... ?
Look, job one for you is to make certain that it looks like your work was made in the PRESENT. Of course, it will be rooted in and connected to history, timlessness, and all that shit. But without the PRESENT in your work, your work is the walking dead. Do me a favor: I LOVE those artists, but stop thinking about them for 18 months. See what happens. Bet you'll be freer and happier...
Do you think paintings will remain the gold standard of coveted art objects for the foreseeable future? Will new media ever surpass them?
In international biennials and many contemporary museum art shows, paintings are virtually absent. These exhibitions are filled with videos, installations, digital media, etc. There are many, many art worlds. Art contains multitudes.
Love it; you produce it.
What, if anything, do you dislike about the art world?
I wish galleries had benches in them and served cashews. Really.
If President Obama asked you for advice on how the federal government should support the arts, what would you tell him?
I would say, "I <3 you, Obama. Don't worry about us. Take care of those Republicans, will you?"
probably dumb questions but,
What advice can you give somebody that is learning about criticism and wants to become sucesfull ?
How did you change from a truck driver to art critique ?
and Whats the best advice you have for a critic.
Look at as much art as possible from your own generation. Stay up very late every night with artists and art critics of YOUR generation. Start a new world. Mine will be gone in like 10-15 years. Your turns then... And take good care of your teeth.
Hey Jerry, I saw the artists opinion is important in understanding a work. I say, in case of understanding art, that is totally obsolete. Is it important for you not to understand an artpiece immediatly and turn to the artist for a better view on the work. Does it irritate you when a piece might confront you with a very narrative filled with critique, political content? Thank you ! :)
If I understand what you're saying I think I agree. As Oscar Wilde said, "The minute you understand a work of art, it begins to die for you."
Hi Jerry, I was wondering if you and Roberta ever have needed to discuss the value of exhibition lists? I am an art writer based in Providence, RI and I feel often as though I am banging my head against a wall with so many galleries who simply don't provide what I think is a vital part of a show. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about this.
The number one most important tool for me in a gallery (other than me) is the CHECKLIST. I prefer the checklist to have color pictures of each work; to be in order of the work as installed from l to r in the gallery; list ALL materials; correct dimensions; date. That is about the ONLY outside tool I use in shows. I never speak to the artist about their work; I want to see the work the same way everyone sees it: cold. I don't read the press-releases either; or rather, I don't understand most of them. Galleries: Write in English; and keep it simple, sweeties.
according to you, the best way to approach a US gallery when seeking representation from outside US? thanks! a painter from Canada
I am not an artist so I have no idea how one approaches a gallery. I do know that you should really research the galleries; really make it your job to know what they stand for, what htier vision is. Never, ever just try to drop off images at every gallery on the street. This is beneath you. I imagine that the best way into any gallery is through an artist friend of an artist friend of an artist friend. It is ALL through artists. I NEVER recommend artists to galleries. It would destroy all my neutrality with a gallery.
Jerry, what is the future of art? In my opinion its been relegated to a hobby for the ultra elite, not the culture-wide phenomena of once upon a time.
Art/artist-as-commodity seems to be quite alive and well and has had much cultural crossover into the mainstream.
I guess I'm asking where is it going? Meaning this thing called the 'artworld' doesn't seem like it can last, so whats next?
Come on! Art is NOT just a harmless hobby! Don't be so cynical! Art has been with us since the beginning; I imagine it will be here until we are not. Neanderthal Man made art. Art is part of a cosmic force. It is not optional. It is part of the Whole Ball of Wax.
Who killed the avant-garde?
Everything changes but the avant-garde.
What do you think about artists who self-represent, those who eschew the traditional gallery path by choice?
I do not know anything about this; I imagine it's a hard road.
Hey Jerry, it's Lauri Lynnxe. So, we talk a lot about the corrupting influence of money, and auctions, and gigantic expensive galleries...yadda yadda. What I want to know is: what happens next? In your opinion, how do we create an art-centric art world again?
I mean, besides you winning the lottery and buying us all a gigantic building. Which TOTALLY has to happen.
I'm sorry not to be able to answer this. I think all we have to do is trust art, go to our studios, make our work, and art will find a way.
hey jerry, what do you think is the best way to get honest feedback on your work
Be open to anything being said to you. You have to have the character to solve the problems that are inevitably in your work. I find that 80% of artists are so defensive they won't listen to anything from anyone, they're just happy little factories.
Hi Jerry. What is your least favourite current trend as an subject matter for art?
Tepid, tame, generic, modest abstraction. The colors are usually black, white, gray, maybe silver. Some reproductive technique, some spray paint, a smudge here and there and presto: made for pointy-headed museum curators. It's dead and it doesn't even know it.
Hi Jerry - Thanks for doing this. I liked your piece concerning the mega galleries. I was curious if you ever write a review and get scared to go back into a gallery because of what you have written? Also what did you eat for breakfast?
Didn't you see the picture of mega-dealer David Zwirner trying to choke me to death this past weekend after i went back into his gallery for the first time since writing about the mega-galleries? I tried to choke him to death too. It was a draw. Check out my FB page from this past Monday. For real. No lie.
As someone who is studying Art History at University and has ambitions in and helping the art world, what is the best advice you could give?
Look at as much art as possible; stay up very late every night with other artists and art-historians; take good care of your teeth; make an enemy of envy; know that cynicism kills the art-response; stay open; be nice; write in accessible English for fuck's sake! For starters.
What's one thing the average person can do to get more out of a visit to a museum? Or, to take it further, what's one thing the average person can do to get more out of a work of art?
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