Jerry Saltz

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Jerry Saltz
File:Art and Culture Center of Hollywood - Flickr - Knight Foundation (4).jpg
Born (1951-02-19) February 19, 1951 (age 72)
Oak Park, Illinois, USA
Occupation Journalist, Author, Art critic
Nationality United States
Period 1990s–
Notable works Seeing Out Loud: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1998–2003, Seeing Out Louder

Jerry Saltz (born February 19, 1951) is an American art critic. Since 2006, he has been senior art critic and columnist for New York magazine. Formerly the senior art critic for The Village Voice, he has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism three times. He has also served as a visiting critic at The School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Yale University, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Studio Residency Program, and was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial. He lives in New York City with his wife Roberta Smith, senior art critic for the New York Times.

Art criticism

In an article in Artnet magazine, Saltz codified his outlook: "All great contemporary artists, schooled or not, are essentially self-taught and are de-skilling like crazy. I don't look for skill in art...Skill has nothing to do with technical proficiency... I'm interested in people who rethink skill, who redefine or reimagine it: an engineer, say, who builds rockets from rocks."[1]

In a 2008 book, he was quoted as saying:

I'm looking for what the artist is trying to say and what he or she is actually saying, what the work reveals about society and the timeless conditions of being alive.

— Saltz on his approach to criticism, Seven Days in the Art World[2]
Saltz was a long distance truck driver before becoming an art critic.[3]

In Seeing Out Loud, his collection of Village Voice columns published in 2003, he said he considers himself the kind of critic that Peter Plagens calls a "goalie," someone who says "It's going to have to be pretty good to get by me."[4]

Saltz has cited Manny Farber's "termite art" and Joan Didion's "Babylon" as well as other wide ranging systemic metaphors for the art world. Although he's defended the art market, he's also called out faddy market behavior and the fetish for youth, saying "the art world eats its young."[5]

On a College Art Association panel in February 2007, Saltz commented, "We live in a Wikipedia art world. Twenty years ago, there were only four to five encyclopedias—and I tried to get into them. Now, all writing is in the Wikipedia. Some entries are bogus, some are the best. We live in an open art world."

His humor, irreverence, self-deprecation and volubility have earned him the designation as the Rodney Dangerfield of the art world.[6] He has expressed doubt about the influence of art critics as purveyors of taste, saying they have little influence in the success of an artist's career. Nonetheless, ArtReview called him the 73rd most powerful person in the art world in their 2009 Power 100 list.[6]

In 2007, he received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism from the College Art Association.[7]

Dialogue with readers through Facebook

Saltz uses social networking website Facebook more actively than many other art critics. He uses the site to post daily questions and diatribes to his audience of friends, which hovered at 4,970 friends in February 2010. He has stated that he wants to demystify the art critic to artists and a general art audience. His posts are less polished and restrained than his writing for New York Magazine and and he has even shared personal matters including family tragedies, career bumps and his diet. He told the New York Observer, "It's exciting to be in this room with 5,000 people. It's like the Cedar Bar for me, or Max's Kansas City."[8]

He has used his page to defend the use of irony in art, arguing against adherents of "the New Seriousness", whom he calls the "Purity Police".[9]

In 2010, artist Jennifer Dalton exhibited an artwork called "What Are We Not Shutting Up About?" at the FLAG Foundation in New York that statistically analyzed five months of Facebook conversations between Saltz and his online friends.[10] In an interview with Artinfo, Dalton said of the work, “I became interested in Jerry Saltz's Facebook page as an amazing site of written dialogue and as a place where culture is being created on the spot. I think my piece, and Jerry Saltz's Facebook page itself, tells us that a lot of people in the art world crave dialogue and community, and when a space is welcoming enough people really flock to it.”[11]

In 2010, Saltz asked his Facebook friends about art studio (or office) door signs—and then later sought someone to compile the replies. The result was a book featuring Saltz and dozens of his page's followers' quotes: JERRY SALTZ ART CRITIC's Fans, Friends, & The Tribes Suggested ART STUDIO DOOR SIGNS of Real Life or Fantasy (ISBN 978-0-9798261-0-8).[12]

Art critic as television personality

Saltz served as a judge in the Bravo television series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist which premiered on June 9, 2010.

Books written by Saltz

  • Saltz, Jerry. Seeing Out Loud: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1998–2003. Gt Barrington: The Figures, 2003; reprinted 2007; 410 pp. (paperback), ISBN 978-1-930589-17-9.
  • Saltz, Jerry. Seeing Out Louder. Hudson Hills Press LLC, 2009; 420 pp. (hardcover), ISBN 978-1-55595-318-8.

Possible next book

In early August 2010 Saltz announced on his Facebook page that he and his wife Roberta Smith intend to publish a book of their favorite paintings in New York. The couple will select their 100 favorite paintings in New York museums and write 100-word entries for each. Saltz encouraged submissions from guest artists, critics, curators, and dealers in the post on his Facebook page. He informed his online friends that "there's no money in this for you whatsoever," but promises a byline for authors of selected entries.[13] The project grew out of a feature he wrote for New York Magazine reporting on some of the paintings in New York museums that he spent his summer visiting. Referring to the South African born art critic Wendy Beckett, he described himself as "Sister Wendy in swimming trunks."[14]


  1. Saltz, Jerry, "Seeing Out Loud",, December 20, 2005. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  2. Thornton, Sarah. Seven Days in the Art World. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2008. (174–75)
  3. Parsi, Novid. "Jerry Saltz: Interview". Time Out: Chicago. May 27, 2010.
  4. Saltz, Jerry. Seeing Out Loud: the Village Voice Art Columns Fall 1998 – Winter 2003. The Figures. 2003 (20–21).
  5. Saltz, Jerry. "Babylon Calling". Artnet Magazine. September 13, 2000
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harrison, Helen A. "Artists Don't Get No Respect". Sag Harbor Express. August 7, 2010. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  7. "Awards". The College Art Association. Retrieved October 11, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Neyfakh, Leon. "The Many Friends of Jerry Saltz". New York Observer. February 16, 2010.
  9. Butler, Sharon L. "The Art World on Facebook:A Primer". Brooklyn Rail. March 2009.
  10. Johnson, Ken. "Art in Review: Jennifer Dalton – Making Sense". New York Times. August 13, 2010.
  11. "Jennifer Dalton Makes Art From Jerry Saltz's Facebook Page". Artinfo. July 7, 2010.
  12. "Art studio door signs book online preview portal"
  13. Halperin, Julia. "Jerry Saltz Needs Your Help to Talk About His Favorite Things". The New York Observer. August 9, 2010.
  14. Saltz, Jerry. "A Grand Tour". New York Magazine. August 1, 2010.

External links