Meet Bravo’s ‘Work of Art’ judge Jerry Saltz

Jerry Saltz

Lately, I’ve heard much talk about “making it in the art world.” To me “making it” ONLY means having CREDIBILITY & TIME TO WORK. Beyond this, on some level all an artist has to do is convince 1 good dealer; 3 good critics; 8 good collectors; & 4 ok curators to like their work. If just those 16 people are totally committed to you (plus maybe a landlord), you may be fine (e.g. Twombly; Hesse; Ryman; etc). 

– Jerry Saltz from his Facebook wall

On June 9th Bravo will kick off it’s fine-art-inspired reality competition show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist that will feature 14 aspiring artists competing for $100,000 dollars and a show at the Brooklyn Museum.  In previous articles we have focused on the show’s sexy host China Chow, the gavel-wielding mentor Simon de Pury and Salon 94 co-founder Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, who will serve on the judges’ panel for the show. Sitting beside Jeanne will be New York Magazine senior art critic – Jerry Saltz, whose matter-of-fact opinions will be rubbing Saltz into the wounds of any of the aspiring artists who falter along the way!

Work of Art's Jerry Saltz

Critic Cred:

So what makes Jerry Saltz qualified to be a judge on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist?  Let’s take a look at some of his art criticism street cred.  Saltz was the Senior Art Critic for the Village Voice from 1998 to 2007 and, as stated previously, is currently the Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine.  Two compilation books have been published of his writings.  In 2003 Seeing Out Loud: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1998-2003 and 2008’s follow up Seeing Out Louder.

If you’re wanting to do some online pre-premiere research on Saltz’s views, you can find an archive of Jerry’s reviews from New York Magazine here.  You can also go to the Village Voice’s archives search here, just search under the “by author” tab to pull a list of Saltz’s work for VV.

Jerry Saltz is a prolific and powerful voice in the art world and a positive review from Saltz can propel an artist up the ladder in a way few others can in the overpopulated, dog-eat-dog New York art scene. He looks to be the Simon Cowell on the Work of Art judges’ panel – not so much concerned with cajoling the fragile egos of the contestants, but solely with whether or not the work they produce has merit or not.

The following video is from a debate / lecture series titled: The Art Market is Less Ethical Than the Stock Market. In this clip you can get a taste of where Saltz comes from in his view of the “art world” and more importantly the art market.  Check it out:

“The point I’m trying to make is that the art world will work the way it works, it’s time to re-think it, this is true because alot of the ideas they talk about… seem very very yesterday…  I want more artists to make more money so they don’t have dark nights of the soul at their jobs for 40 hours a week.  Now they are… but I think you just have to let the art world be what it is.  The re-thinking of it has to be look at all the big white cubes that we now have…that may have become content unto themselves… the same way that talking about the market hollows out art”

This is kind of a heady issue but it shows that Saltz does have a deep belief in the way the art world works and that it is a beautiful thing unto itself that should not be controlled or regulated (even if it is in many ways insane, self serving, and blind to so many great talents outside of its self-imposed parameters).  I think you can get a good idea from this clip that not only is Saltz opinionated, but he is self-confident about his views and not afraid to offend other people with them – great qualities for a competition reality show judge!

I believe this show will hinge on the idea of how you go about judging art.  Who’s to say what is great art and what isn’t and how will this idea work in a competitive TV show environment attempting to compare various styles and mediums?  I’m optimistic that with a cast that includes folks like Jerry Saltz, Work of Art will be able to pull it off and hopefully do for the visual arts what Project Runway did for fashion, which was to break down the artificially daunting wall between the art form and “everyday” people by delivering the processes and criticisms right into our living rooms in an entertaining and enlightening way. There is no reason that the “fashion world” and “art world” should seem inaccessible to anyone!

Photo: Facebook

Saltz has not remained or been influential only in New York.  He has served as a visiting critic for Columbia University, Yale University and The Art Institute of Chicago.  He has also lectured at many decorated places including Harvard, The Museum of Modern Art and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  He is married to Roberta Smith, senior critic for the New York Times.  You can keep up with Jerry via his Facebook page – his wall is public.