Advice on art criticism from Jerry Saltz

This is why I love Facebook. Where else could I get career advice on art criticism from a guy who lives 1,778.6 miles away?
Jerry Saltz Before picking up pikes against the demons and bearing-down on my weekly deadline, and not to get too solemn on a Monday f*cking morning: Thinking about museums, what they do, and who they serve.The worst show at a NYC museum by a real artist this year was hands-down the Guggenheim”s mall-like Exploratorium indoor-park Vegas-like fake-lightshow thing by James Turrell. No one was allowed to say the Turrell sucked because he’s from the purer-than-thou “greatest generation” of 1960s/1970s Post-Minimalists and he’s from LA and if New Yorkers ever criticize big-wig LA artists LA writers get their shorts in a wad. (Turrell should stick to non-electronic all-natural effects. He’s best at PS1.)The worst single work of art that I saw all this year in a NY museum was “The Rain Room” at MoMA. Really, it’s not art. It’s just a high-tech amusement-park ride.
Cool. Whatever. The museum has to pay the bills. The lines were gargantuan. It wasn’t much worse than MoMA’s Tim Burton show a few years back.Then I got a “Make a Wish” request from a beautiful colleague of mine at NYM. Her mother is very sick and dying and wanted to see “The Rain Room.” She’s in a wheel chair and couldn’t wait in the long long MoMA lines to get in.After working with MoMA another beautiful person there arranged to come in early one morning at 8:30AM. She made sure there were guards there, and other security, safety, and insurance requirements. She had the entire “Rain Room” apparatus turned on and working.Before going to chemo-therapy this woman and her family showed up and we were allowed into the piece that morning all alone. For a full half-hour. We had an amazing time together.

This woman later wrote to tell me that this was “one of the beautiful things” she’d ever seen and that “it was one of the best days” of her life.

It made me think. Before we are ungenerous about our museums and their current problems we still have to stop and consider how many audiences these museums serve and how selfless are many of the folks who have the privilege of working there (for like no money, like all of us).

Art’s house has many mansions.

PS. But the Turrell really was cheesy.”

“Theresa Anderson Funny, how you talk about “if New Yorkers ever criticize big-wig LA artists LA writers get their shorts in a wad” where I am in Denver, it’s almost impossible to speak your mind unless you(re)sic some big guy who thinks he’s untouchable. People involved also really only want to hear the good stuff. Everything else must be bad for their brand. It’s so in the moment. Are those artists and museums even capable of hearing the real criticism? Even if it’s for their own good? Mostly they wail and rub their eyes. Wah. Wah. Wah.”
“Jerry Saltz Theresa Anderson: You make a v good point. The advantage of being a critic in NYC is that I can make an enemy EVERY week and the art world is still large enough for me not to be a TOTAL outcast.
In smaller scenes if I “tell the truth” – within a year or two there will be almost no one left for me to commune with.
I will be a lone vampire.
All lone vampires die.
Vampires must commiserate with own kind; constantly.
V good point.
Applies to LA is some small way; the boosterism there.
Although it doesn’t NEED this boosterism; and would be stronger WITHOUT it.
LA is probably the strongest ARTIST-center in the US.
But the boosterism propagates ghettoizing and unnecessary protectionism.
Wish I’d have lived in LA for a decade of my live.”
“Theresa Anderson Yesterday I was accused of holding pep rallies in my studio which I thought was funny. Brings up ideas of what you call boosterism. Which is funny because I’ve also been accused of not being a good player in the local scene- because I’ve spoken my mind a time or two. Oh, damn. I’m a vampire.”
“Jerry Saltz Theresa Anderson: IF the scene you live in IS small then you must NOT always speak your mind.
It goes against nature. You need maximum diversity in a minimum amount of space.
In other words, CHOOSE your spots. Do NOT go after EVERYTHING. Pick well, grasshopper.
And love youth…. allow it in; it flushes the system continuously and will keep older vampires from feeding on one-another, rats, or themselves.
All kinds of love … … …”

One comment

  1. Hey Theresa,
    thanks for sharing this. Loved reading the whole “comment-conversation.” Good advice.

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