Legendary Art Critic John Perreault Is Dead at 78

Art critic John Perreault, who wrote for Artnews, Soho News, and the Village Voice, died on September 6 at the age of 78 after complications following a gastrointestinal surgery, according to Artnews.

Perreault began his career as a poet and painter, but started writing criticism for Artnews in the mid-1960s. In 1966, the Village Voice hired him as its chief art critic, a role that he harnessed to champion emerging artists and those operating outside the mainstream art world at the time. This included minimalism, photorealism, land art, and the decorative art shown at the Holly Solomon Gallery, as well as work by feminist artists and queer artists. As a sculptor and painter, he explored alternative media, included oil-coated sand and toothpaste.

He befriended many of the artists he wrote about, and has been painted by Alice Neel (the portrait was shown at her 1974 Whitney Museum retrospective), Philip Pearlstein, and Sylvia Sleigh. Perreault’s husband, Jeff Weinstein, told Artnews that the critic spoke on the phone with with Andy Warhol nightly for two years.

He was an outspoken and opinionated critic with a keen eye for artists whose work would ultimately become canonical, which earned him a following with art world cognoscenti and laymen alike. “John was a witness to the art world in the ’60s and ’70s in a way that nobody else was,” Weinstein said. “He didn’t know how important he was as a critic.”

According to the New York Times, Perreault was instrumental in organizing the first “Day Without Art” in 1989 to draw awareness to the impact of AIDS in the arts.

Perreault taught at the New School, the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, the University of Arizona in Tucson and the State University of New York at Binghamton, and the University of California, San Diego, where he met his husband, who he formally married in 2008. He also served as a curator at the American Craft Museum, the Everson Museum of Art, and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art.

He was also was the author and editor of several books and exhibition catalogs, including Philip Pearlstein: Drawings and Watercolors (1988). In 1989, he published a book of fiction under the title Hotel Death and Other Tales.

John Perreault by John Perreault (2010). Image: Courtesy .artsjournal.com.

John Perreault by John Perreault (2010).
Image: Courtesy of artsjournal.com.

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