Jerry Saltz on the Importance of Social Media for Art and Why He Is Not Like Klaus Biesenbach

Few art world people have used social media to craft their image better than Jerry.

Jerry Saltz

Jerry Saltz took to the podium at Frieze New York’s Frieze Talks on Saturday, May 16 (see The Top 10 Booths at Frieze New York 2015 and Brian Boucher Survives Sweaty Dudes, Mazes, and Velcro Suits at Frieze New York). During the talk, titled “Ask Jerry,” which was moderated by Tom Eccles, Saltz responded to questions by the public submitted via his Twitter and Facebook accounts with the hashtag #askjerry. Here are a few of the more noteworthy but also sometimes silly things he had to say.

1. On social media:

My first social platform was Facebook…. One day out of nowhere, I saw I had a picture of a Marlene Dumas painting…. I put the picture up and I said why I didn’t like Marlene Dumas. In just three or four sentences. And all hell broke loose. People were tearing me new ones for weeks. I sat at home and I thought this is good. This is a different model of criticism.

2. On getting kicked off Facebook:

I don’t post naked pictures of people. I post a lot of sicko medieval images that are masterpieces rediscovered that have been hiding in margins of books since 1000 years. I love them. But there were complaints from artists. They were offended by people with big balls or breasts getting hacked off, or people shitting on each other, having sex (see Jerry Saltz Got Banned From Facebook).

This end of empire, this estuary to Christianity…and the birth of capitalism was producing something extraordinary that felt familiar to me at our end of empire. Artists were complaining, that they were offended by this imagery. Facebook said you have violated our community standards. I was crushed. Unwad your goddamned panties.

3. On how criticism has changed in the age of social media:

What’s really great is there’s no money in art criticism. That sucks but it hasn’t changed much since I was a truck driver. This is an illustration from Fanny Hill, look at that scrotum. Since there’s no money in criticism there’s nothing for critics to lose.

4. On the “instantaneous moment of almost total shock” you experience when looking at art:

You like the George Bush painting? I did. You think that made me feel good, to like his painting? It made me feel sick to my stomach.

5. On advice for budding artists:

Make an enemy of jealousy and envy. As fast and soon as you can. It will eat you alive. It isn’t about you…. The art world is high school with money. It’s an all-volunteer army. If you don’t like it get out.

6. On whether the art world can survive the current obsession with celebrity:

There’s not that many of them here. I’m more interested in why celebrities who are gods in their worlds would come to our world, with its secret handshakes and its nervousness about selling out and celebrity.

7. On the danger of revealing too much on social media:

A lot of people when they don’t like me will lump me into the Klaus Biesenbach celebrity thing and go “Oh Jerry, he’s just trying to be a star.”

My answer to them is look at that great painting I found this morning—look at a cauldron and a demon pouring gasoline on them. Why don’t you think of that. (For more Saltz on reality television see Jerry Saltz On Why street Art Throwdown Is Complete Crap.)

8. On whether Kim Kardashian’s “champagne ass” is art:

Few people have ever existed on earth, pace Andy Warhol, who have manipulated the ephemeral essence known as image better than Kim Kardashian and Kanye. I don’t care if you like their work, I would say that Kanye is an artist and Kim is this completely self-invented person who might have invented the selfie (see Why Are the Kardashians So Obsessed With Art?.)

9. On whether or not digital art is revolutionary compared to “hang on the wall” art:

I will look at what you put wherever you put it. Okay. I love galleries. Same with art fairs, even though I have nervous breakdowns at them.

People who know me know that I have never gone to a sit-down dinner since the 1980s. I’m not capable. I have no life. I see 20–30 shows a week. Then I go home just like you, terrified that [I can’t] do something new. So people ask me to meet for breakfast, lunch; I haven’t met anyone for breakfast or lunch since 1988 on Prince Street.

10. On Jeff Koons’s slick persona:

Have you ever heard Koons speak? He’s like Ronald Reagan. He’s vacated himself and made himself eternally empty. I knew him back when we were kids. He wasn’t like that. He sacrificed that for art. He understood what Warhol was like. Andy was not lying when he said everything you need to know about Andy Warhol is on the surface. This is endless eternal surface (see The Wisdom of Jeff Koons in 6 Easy Quotes.)

11. On his research method:

I don’t spend that much time on social media. I get up really early and I go right to work. I was a long-distance truck driver until I was 40 years old—the only circumcised long-distance truck driver…. Until it finally got so bad that I thought anything is better than this life. I thought what can I do to still meet women. I thought I’ll be an art critic. Stupidest idea in the world. (See Jerry Saltz’s Reader-Sourced Sexy Museum Encounters Less Sexy Than Expected.)

12. On the most ridiculous experience he ever had in the art world:

About 15 years ago, I wrote something negative about a pretty well-known painter, in East Hampton, when I used to rent a house in Sag Harbor. This artist grabbed me by the elbow, at a big party, and she said to me, these words, “Vendetta! Vendetta!”

I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ This was the early 1990s. She said, “You’re destroying my market…. Everybody knows you’re fake.” I got hysterical. I said, “No. Everybody knows you’re a fake.”


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