12 of The Most Awkward Things Artists Have Said to Art Critics

Sometimes artists say the silliest things.

Art critic Jerry Saltz. Photo: J Grassi/Patrick McMullan.

It’s no secret that the relationship between artists and the critics who opine on their work can be fraught with tension. Though many artists insist that they don’t care what critics say or write about them, they must care a little. Presumably no one enjoys seeing their work misinterpreted or trashed.

While some artists deal with it better than others—on occasion even befriending their critics—many of contemporary art’s biggest names have made buffoons of themselves trying to zing a critic. From Richard Prince to Jeff Koons, here are some of the most awkward things that have been said to and about art critics. We only hope to one day be so lucky as to be similarly acknowledged.

Richard Prince Photo: Patrick McMullan

Richard Prince Photo: Patrick McMullan

1. Jeff Koons to an unnamed critic (overheard by Jerry Saltz): “You don’t get it, man. I’m a fucking genius.”

2. Marina Abramovic to Spike Magazine: “Then [Jay Z] just completely used me. And that wasn’t fair…. I was really naive in this kind of world. It was really new to me, and I had no idea that this would happen. It’s so cruel, it’s incredible.”

3. Oscar Murillo to Jerry Saltz regarding widespread criticism of “A Mercantile Novel”: “This is where my practice is now.”

Art critic Jerry Saltz. Photo: J Grassi/Patrick McMullan.

Art critic Jerry Saltz.
Photo: J Grassi/Patrick McMullan.

4. Richard Prince to Vanity Fair: “You couldn’t speculate about [the “Joke” paintings]. So much of art depends on the critic as the umpire. With a joke there’s nothing to interpret.”

5. Salvador Dalí to Brian Sewell while photographing him naked: It might be better if you took your clothes off.”

6. Jack Vettriano to The Radio Times: “The person who [rejected The Singing Butler for display at the Royal Academy] ought to go and live in a cave somewhere. That painting has since sold over 10 million copies. How could somebody get something so wrong?”

Jack Vettriano, The Singing Butler (1992). Photo: Wikipedia.

Jack Vettriano, The Singing Butler (1992).
Photo: Wikipedia.

7. Marcel Duchamp to James Johnson Sweeney: “Repeat the same thing long enough and it becomes taste.”

8. Lawrence Weiner to Adam O’Reilly: “I don’t want to fuck up anyone’s life on their way to work. I want to fuck up their whole life.”

9. Ed Ruscha to Dave Hickey, on what artists respect about other artists: “It’s not the quality of the work, it’s the quality of the job.”

10. Loris Gréaud to Lauren Smart: “I really invite you…study a bit litterature, study A LOT art history and art after the 20 century (you’ll be amaze) obiviousely ill higly recommand during this 4 years studies: a boyfriend with at least 400mg Anadrol a day… and I swear you’ll make it [sic].”

11. Andy Warhol to Calvin Tompkins: “Do you have a big cock?”

12. James Franco on Ben Brantley: “BEN BRANTLEY…IS SUCH A LITTLE BITCH HE SHOULD BE WORKING FOR GAWKER.COM INSTEAD OF THE PAPER OF RECORD. THE THEATER COMMUNITY HATES HIM, and for good reason, HE’s an idiot.”


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