“I never stepped back. I always felt caught right in the middle of the hurricane — in the best sense of the word to the most terrifying — from 2001, when everyone said everything changed.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz joins the show to celebrate his new collection, ART IS LIFE: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night (Riverhead Books). We get into the ways his book chronicles tumultuous transformations in the art world in the 21st century, his late start (almost 40) as an art critic and how his lack of art history training affects his writing, the works of art that inspired his writing, and the transcendent joy of Jeff Koons’ 43-foot-tall topiary puppy. We also talk about how a critic can try to avoid the sclerosis they’re all liable to suffer, why he’s the least reliable critic of Matthew Barney, why he thinks some critics are holding back on negative reviews, what it’s like to attend 25-30 gallery shows a week (with his wife, the great NYT art critic Roberta Smith) and what it meant when pandemic lockdown hit. And we discuss his 35-year friendship with the late Peter Schjeldahl, his attempt at getting up to speed on classic books, his disdain for cynics and ‘knowers’, the artists he missed the boat on, and how art saved his life. Give it a listen! And go read ART IS LIFE (& Jerry’s first book, HOW TO BE AN ARTIST!
“As soon as women and people of color showed up, we pronounced, ‘The author is dead, the artist is dead, the novel is dead, painting is dead,’ like, ‘Sorry, that shop is now closed’.”
“To create is to evolve. To stop creating is to start evolving. Not to progress, but simply in terms of being human.”
“If there’s an artist you don’t get, then keep looking. You’ll see if there’s anything for you there, and if you can dig it up you can talk about what it is to you.”
“I think that art criticism is holding back. Every review is positive, and I think being critical is a way of showing art respect.”
About our Guest
Jerry Saltz is the senior art critic at New York magazine and its entertainment site Vulture, and the author of the New York Times bestseller How to Be an Artist. In 2018 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. A frequent guest lecturer at major universities and museums, he has spoken at Harvard University, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and many other venues, and has taught at Columbia University, Yale University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere. His new book is ART IS LIFE: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Penguin Random House HQ on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Jerry by me. It’s on my instagram.