This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 18,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Art critic Jerry Saltz recently lashed out at Morley Safer of 60 Minutes over Safer's criticism of the mainstream art world / art market. The lengthy lecture by Saltz ended in an open challenge for Safer. Saltz stated, "I challenge you to curate a public New York show of 25 to 35 contemporary artists — those who have emerged since, say, 1985 — whose work you really approve of, plus a few examples of your own art. I promise to review it, fair and square. Deal?". Safer declined the offer. Fair enough. However, I don't think art critic Jerry Saltz would have lived up to his challenge had Morley Safer agreed. After all, Saltz has a history of making challenges on a whim only to back out when the challenge is in motion. I know this from firsthand experience.
Long story short, Jerry Saltz challenged me to find a specific number of artists (working today) exploring conservative themes (For example, art work that explores pro-life in a supportive way OR criticizes abortion -- OR artwork that criticizes far-left politicians... or specific laws they have helped pass) -- and offered to review the work, publish an article about it, AND find an exhibit space for it. The challenge came into being due to his denial that liberal political/social bias exists within the mainstream art world. I accepted his challenge -- and started gathering names.
Saltz backed out of the challenge (perhaps because he knew I was serious about it?) after less than a week. Unfortunately, he twisted the truth by stating that I had backed out of the challenge on his Facebook Wall (others, including Andrew Breitbart -- whom I had contacted about the challenge, knew the truth). That was not the end of it. Saltz opened his challenge a second time during the course of another debate with me on his Facebook Wall. However, that time he only offered to review the work. I thought, "Fair enough". -- and started gathering names. Shortly after that he backed out of the challenge again. By that point I figured it was a waste of time.
Eventually Saltz stated on his Facebook wall, yet again, that I had backed out of his challenge -- and asked for my list of conservative-minded artists (he brought it up during a debate that had nothing to do with the challenge he had made). I reminded Saltz that I had saved our conversations and could easily show that he was the one not up for the challenge. I asked him if he was serious about it -- unfortunately, he only agreed to 'look' at the images in private. Basically he was implying that I should do his research for him. I mean, the whole idea was to show that conservative themed art is 'out there' -- not just prove to him personally that 'it' exists. It went from being a 'real' review and exhibit scenario, to 'I just want to see it'.
Saltz had flip-flopped so many times that the reward was simply no longer acceptable -- not for me or the artists involved. Point blank -- it would have been a waste of my time... and the artists time. By that point I felt that he is more than capable of researching this kind of art on his own. After all, he has the resources and the influence (far more than I) -- if he really wanted to know if conservative themed art is 'out there' he could simply write about it... offer an open request for those artists to come forward. In fact, I challenged him to do just that. He did not comment.
As for his challenge, my gut told me he would not have looked at the images even if I had sent him my completed list. You could say -- due to his constant flip-flopping -- that he proved my point about some elements of the mainstream art world. That being... liberal political/social bias does exist within those circles -- the artist focusing on conservative themes / ideas stands little chance of being acknowledged based solely on the expression of those ideas. Art critic Ken Johnson has acknowledged that -- going as far as to suggest that the mainstream art world is a 'liberal festival' -- a place where only specific political/social ideas are accepted (which Saltz denies). As for Saltz, what can you expect from an art critic who, on his Facebook wall, calls conservatives "maniacs" or worse on an almost daily basis.
Jerry Saltz clearly does not want 'that kind of art' in his 'world'. He is afraid of it -- afraid of conservative themes in current art -- and afraid that YOU might come to your own opinion about it (going against his opinion). I'd suggest that Saltz wants specific ideas to be contained -- to have little, or no, presence within the mainstream art world that he is familiar with... because he thrives in an art world that he can be comfortable with -- politically, socially and professionally. He does not want that 'world' to be challenged. To be fair, Jerry is not the only art 'professional' clinging to comfort. That said, Saltz has proven my point about the mainstream art world while also proving that he is not a man of his word. If I'm wrong... he will have to prove it.
The challenges proposed by art critic Jerry Saltz, challenges that he fails to stand by when people DO accept them, are starting to chip away at his credibility. Art critic Justin Town recently turned the tables on Saltz by 'hitting' him with the same challenge he had offered to Morley Safer (which Saltz had offered to Glenn Beck in the past). Town stated, "As was expected Mr. Saltz declined to step up to the plate and accept my very real curatorial challenge; The very same challenge he used against Morley Safer and Glenn Beck. What gives? Well, what gives is that this is yet another example of good old fashioned lip service and double standard from a well-healed bully and I'm willing to bet we will not be hearing any of Saltz's cronies calling him a coward anytime soon either.". Once again, the hypocrisy of Jerry Saltz is revealed.
Town used the experience to bring up other issues concerning the 'Saltz brand' of art criticism -- and to point out a few contradictions concerning Saltz in general. Point blank -- Saltz deleted some of the Facebook exchange that he had with Town. Concerning that experience, Town stated, "Why would this proponent of transparency and democracy selectively hide seemingly harmless content from his followers? Your guess is as good as mine...Talk about self-editing.". Town went on to say, "But all jokes aside, the implications of this little act are actually quite disturbing; those two little deletes that in essence admit to the decline of a challenge speaks volumes. If a critic is willing to bury content to save face in this small instance... just imagine what that same critic might do within the larger picture...the devil is always in the details.". Justin Town is spot on in his criticism of Saltz. I've offered the same line of critical opinion concerning Jerry Saltz in the past. His flip-flopping can no longer be denied.
In closing, we all know that Jerry Saltz -- and other mainstream art professionals -- will continue doing what they have been doing for decades. They thrive on comfort... there is no room for real challenge, political or otherwise, in their 'world'. Their generation is content with the direction of the mainstream art world. They thrive in a 'world' based on exclusion (a 'world' they helped shape). All the same, I want to offer a challenge of my own. I challenge published art critics -- specifically those working for major newspapers or art magazines -- to discover 5 artists online who: 1.) Are not associated with a prestigious art gallery. 2.) Have never exhibited at a museum. 3.) Have never sold a work of art for thousands of dollars. 4.) Are not related to anyone associated with the high profile circles of the museum / gallery world. 5.) Are not related to a celebrity or other influential person. I take that back -- I'll make the challenge easier... so easy, even Jerry Saltz might be able to find time to accept. Just discover one. Do it. Some of you spend hours on Facebook and Twitter each day -- use that time to discover artists online. Prove to us that mainstream art world coverage is not just about dollar signs, name-dropping, and ad sales. Show us that there is more to your brand of art criticism than the factors I've mentioned. I can hear the crickets chirping now.
Take care, Stay true,