The saying goes, “Everyone’s a critic,” but Jerry Saltz really is. An art aficionado, coffee addict, and social media influencer, he brings a unique perspective to the creative world.
Never shying away from controversy, Saltz demonstrates the difficulty art critics face through their words. How has he risen above the current environment of being canceled for voicing his critical opinions?
Grab a coffee and join us as we review the critic.
The Story of Jerry Saltz
Born in 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, Jerry Saltz is an award-winning art critic. As a child, a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago is where he discovered, “Everything here is telling a story, everything here has a code, has a language—and I’m going to learn this whole language and I’m going to know the story.”
His controversial social media posts contribute to his fame as much as his acclaimed reviews in esteemed art magazines. Saltz has a notorious coffee habit yet doesn’t know how to make it.
At the early age of ten, Jerry’s mother committed suicide. His father remarried, and in the process, Jerry gained two stepbrothers. By his admission, they didn’t get along well.
Saltz saw no integration in his family life; the adults and the children compartmentalized down to the different dining rooms in the home. This separation and general abandonment contributed to his internal angst as a young artist.
How Did Jerry Saltz Become Interested in Art?
Jerry found spiritual inspiration in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Just looking at how cultures existed by necessity gave him a feeling of their innate spiritualism.
Art history was important to Saltz. He found inspiration from Byzantine, medieval, Native American, and Tibetan teachings. Saltz loved cryptic illustrations, charts, and diagrams. By the time he was 21, he had created hard-edged geometric images.
Jerry enjoyed the contemporary art expressed in poured-paint blobs (Lynda Benglis) and stuffed camel sculptures (Nancy Graves). His friends’ work in performance-based and conceptual art fueled his passion.
Tell Me More About Jerry Saltz’s Career as an Art Critic
Because Jerry Saltz struggled with being an artist, he recognizes the inability to process critical art thinking. He can relate to the artist’s internal battle to be self-critical toward resolving the depth of their creations.
In the 1990s, he began evaluating works seriously. Jerry judges what he sees based on whether the individual has the character necessary to overcome the problems in their work.
If an artist can clear away the demons that stopped him, the work becomes more meaningful. An outgoing man, Jerry loves the weekly drama that comes with criticism.
Is Jerry Saltz an Artist?
Jerry often references himself with self-deprecating humor. It pains him to say, in all honesty, that he’s a failed artist.
Saltz lived in the inner city of Chicago and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1970 to 1975. He eventually dropped out, never completing a degree.
In his 20s and 30s, Saltz invested countless hours looking for his visual voice. He notes the bliss it brought him and how he misses it. Jerry produced drawings with pastel, charcoal, and colored pencils, often with geometric symbolism.
In 1972, Saltz started an artist-run gallery with his roommate, Barry Holden. By 1978, Saltz had two successful shows devoted to his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The show received critical acclaim, and he subsequently moved to New York.
As Jerry puts it, he let the demons of self-doubt overtake him, so he quit making art. Before settling into his current career, he even drove a long-hauler truck. But he acknowledges the journey made him the successful critic he is today.
How Did Jerry Saltz Create Controversy on Social Media?
Remember, Jerry is a critic, and he’s an exceptional one on social media. Some call him brash and unpolished, while others call him naughty. Facebook called him inappropriate after receiving enough complaints to get a temporary suspension.
Saltz joined social media and delivered his particular version of art criticism to the masses. His followers are still loving and hating him today.
Jerry’s posts often cover images of compromised genitalia, garnering complaints that he’s too sexist, misogynistic, and abusive. Hence the suspension. In response, Jerry Saltz suggests people merely block or unfollow him.
Regarding social media and the art criticism pyramid, he says, “I thought, instead of the one speaking to the many, this is the way for the many to speak to one another. That there is a way to reverse this model, go horizontal and speak back with every commenter.” They do.
You can find Saltz embracing all social media. Just pick your muse. Hang out on Facebook? He’s there with nearly 95,000 followers. Like the fast-paced newsy world of Twitter? Yep, also there with a whopping 543,000 followers. Instagram? Saltz has 550,000 engaged followers.
Is it really a controversy? We don’t think so, but we also don’t recommend showing some of his posts to your kids.
Did Jerry Saltz Win a Pulitzer Prize?
In 2018, Jerry Saltz won the year’s Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Rather than the unrelenting reproach he heaps on others, Jerry won for the inward look at himself in the article, “My Life as a Failed Artist.”
It was the third nomination Saltz received for his body of work. His style and approach reflect why he’s often so controversial on social media.
Dana Canedy of the Pulitzers said of his reviews and essays, “a robust body of work that conveyed a canny and often endearing perspective on visual arts in America encompassing the personal, the political, the pure, and the profane.”
With more than 30 years in the industry, Jerry is currently the senior art critic and columnist of New York magazine. He formerly wrote for the Village Voice and Art in America. Saltz is one of today’s most prominent art critics and the recipient of three honorary doctorates.
Who Did Jerry Saltz Marry?
Jerry Saltz married fellow art critic Roberta Smith in 1992. Her career in the arts began in 1968 as an intern at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Today, she’s the co-chief art critic of The New York Times, the first woman to hold this position.
Saltz credits Smith with helping him find his life and calling. Apropos, the couple lives in Greenwich Village, New York City.
An Artist Through His Words
We think Jerry Saltz was an artist and is one today through his written musings. As a social media influencer, he takes the art of dialog in new directions. It may be unconventional, but we get a glimpse of what he sees.
Are you a Jerry Saltz fan or critic? Tell us about it in the comments.