Jerry Saltz Is An Asshat

“Art is for anyone. It just isn’t for everyone.”
– Jerry Saltz

TLDR: The loudest voices offer the least, and yes, Jerry Saltz is an asshat.
To commemorate the passing of the old guard, I’ve minted an NFT collection of Asshats on both Ethereum and Tezos networks. Links at article footer.

This post has taken me a little over half a year to come to write. Why?

It starts innocently enough in August of 2021, when I happen to stumble across yet another of Jerry’s Twitter rants on vaccine mandates. For any of you unfamiliar with Jerry Saltz, he is amongst other things the senior ‘art critic’ for New York Magazine. I’m sure most of us neither read nor care for New York magazine, though it’s worth noting that the publication was created by none other than Milton Glaser (and Clay Felker) all the way back in 1968, as an ‘off the cuff’ alternative to the New Yorker. Milton is arguably most known for his ‘I ♥ NY’ logo. I happen to have one of his ‘Big Yellow Nude’ prints in the house I’m renting (the landlord was a former Saatchi & Saatchi creative), and I can say with absolute certainty I’ve never once considered Milton’s political bias any time I’ve looked upon those carefree curves, or for that matter whenever I’ve been in New York.

I’m still somewhat surprised by the level of vitriol I’d received for having the apparent audacity to question Jerry’s openly derogatory language, squared firmly towards anyone who might have questions of their own. I’ve rarely engaged such conversations (ahem) on social media, although I have been making recent exception with some of the misinformation circulating on NFT’s in the last few months.

Just some quick perspective there; I took another deep-dive early last year as interest was heating up again. I’d first ventured into NFT’s in 2017 during my time in China, as a friend and I sought interest in a platform offering fractional ownership of physical artworks. We were a little too far ahead of the curve there, receiving bemused responses as standard. Many of us by now are at least familiar with the concept of NFT’s, but there’s still plenty naysayers shouting down anyone who dare venture in. On occasion I’ve taken the time to engage, and present verifiable data on energy consumption, in an attempt to demystify the baptised rhetoric on how irresponsible artists and ‘shadowy super coders’ are burning through rainforest at breakneck speed. It’s an exercise in social psychology as one ‘individual’ after the other blindly reinforces bias without ever making reference to any evidence to the contrary.

I think what’s taken the time to write this post has been my sheer dismay for a behaviour that appears to have embedded itself within the public psyche, and far deeper than I had previously thought possible. There have been many occasions over the last two years where this has literally kept me up at night, held by the notion that we seem to be losing sight of each other. The pandemic laid bare how readily disconnected from our own good nature we can be.

Left: New York magazine ‘Election Issue’ cover, 2018 Right: Milton Glaser poster for SVA, NYC

In Jerry’s case what I had seen over time was a growing anti-republican rhetoric that had been bleeding out into his role as art critic. I openly questioned this diatribe when he’d declared that all republican patrons of the arts should be boycotted (I forget the exact wording, but you get the gist).

Let that sink in for just a moment… the senior art critic for New York magazine was attempting to blacklist supporters of the already pandemic hit arts, making clear mention of gallerists as he did so. I forget my exact response to this, it was something along the lines of the dangers in attempting to hold to account any source of funding or support on the basis of political bias. Corporate America will no doubt do business with whomever happens to hold office, and unless he was suggesting we hold every dollar ever spent accountable, I don’t see the integrity (or honesty) of such rhetoric. These arguments are leading us all up the garden path to populism, where any shade of complexity can be reduced to either red or blue. It’s the delivery of pundits and fools. I wonder if he imagines every blue collar worker in the US should clock-off and head home if their employer happens to hold court with their political opposition? And don’t artists have a hard enough time finding representation as it is? Where’s the nuance?

Definition of critic:

1a: one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances

b: one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique

I’d followed Jerry for two or three years at this point, so I was familiar with his occasional soap-boxing on issues that he felt relevant, and I’d always turned a blind eye to it because when it came to the art he could at times be both poignantly engaging, and endearing in equal measure. I say this even now, given how utterly off base I believe him to be much of the time.

For the record this is not an attack on Jerry personally, and in all fairness he’s not that significant in any case. This is about something I’ve spoken to many times before in my work, and will no doubt continue to in the future. We are in my opinion present day at a breaking point in our communication with one another. Jerry is just another antagonist, and in a broader sense highlights the dangers of not being either willing, or God forbid allowed to ask ‘why?’. Jerry is of the old guard, racing headlong towards irrelevance alongside print media and paywalls, and yet somehow his dismissive style of communique lingers on.

Look at the world around us present day, and the perpetual encroachment upon civil liberties. No one’s paying attention for having been so distracted by the ‘other’. We’ve come to the paradoxical point of knowing we are constantly lied to, and yet we appear unwilling to question what is broadcast as ‘truth’. Without wanting to sound melodramatic, it seems to me the only way of pulling back from the brink is if we find the humility enough to stop and think about how we view one another. We are approaching 8 billion strong as a species, borne a myriad of culture and tradition, perpetually in search of equilibrium.

What I always find fascinating about the polarised positions being taken at the level of culture is the seemingly blind spot to homogeneity. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone agrees with me, I want to live in a time and place that allows us to inform each other with our beliefs, and be ready to question ourselves when confronted with information that challenges us. Without this we remain nothing more than dogs barking at the fences of our own turf.

What ‘culture’ then should we be capable of?

“Art is not made for anybody and is, at the same time, for everybody” – Piet Mondrian

The tirade of insults and dismissals I’d received for merely suggesting the need to question the ‘science’ being presented during the pandemic, were perhaps more of a surprise than they should have been. I typically don’t engage because I’ve seen too often how social media obliterates debate, and replaces it with rhetorical saber rattling. I could care less for the personal insults, they were even humorous for a minute. I have nothing but empathy for anyone less immune, it was a palpable attack.

What really struck me was that here was Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine and his Twitter followers, dismissing entirely the idea of intellectual investigation. This is what stayed with me for all this time, and even as I write now I have trouble framing it in such a way that it makes any sense.

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” – Charles Bukowski

I think it is worth noting that since 2019, New York magazine has been owned by Vox Media. If you dig into the history of Vox Media it doesn’t take long to see an integrated top down Democratic Party influence. It’s a unanimously left leaning, pro Democrat organisation with an agenda that Jerry appears to have taken to heart.

Real journalism has been systematically forced underground, having to find independent means to survive. How did we let that happen? How did shit-bags and charlatans find themselves blessed with corporate airtime and exclusive zip codes, whilst those that seek the truth have had to battle it out under constant threat of censorship, or in the most extreme circumstances – death.

So insidious has censorship become that we’ve even had to bear witness to the very words from our own mouths be tilted toward new meaning. A truly ironic example of this has been use of the word ‘misinformation’, which has somehow come to encompass anything that opposes official narrative. It’s not difficult to calculate the dangers of this.

Descendence (2019)
Acrylic on Paper
50 x 50 cm
Edition of 10 +3 AP’s

And so this is where I come to the point…

“…for once the deceived become aware of their deception, they are no longer deceived.” – Nils Melzer (The Trial of Julian Assange)

I’ve heard it said many times over the years that ‘everything is political’, art included, and I have always disagreed. For me, politics is the constructed veil under which the material truth is hidden. It is the task of the artist to move beyond the politics of any issue, and root out this truth. Otherwise what be your purpose, aesthetic notwithstanding?

‘Art’ stands as the last bastion of good reason, whether you agree with its intention or not. Hell, because you don’t agree with it, such be the necessity of free speech, and the expression it affords us all. Art has the power to force your reason to its very end, to hit you square between the eyes and challenge everything you believe in. Art is a debate, held over centuries as we’ve scrambled to make sense of the madness of being. Art is all of the pain, the pleasure, and everything we dared venture in between. Art is our desires out on the astral planes. Art is me being able to tell you – you are not my judge, you are my compatriot.

I make no attempt at grandiosity here. Like many of you I feel held between a rock and a hard place often, as little by little I see more of us disenfranchised to the point of escapism. The funny thing about being human is how we all swim in the same emotional seas, so I know only too well how easy it is to be responding defensively under pressure. Social media is pressure, the same way short, sharp bursts of communication are pressure. We’re not wired for it, or at least we haven’t been since we found civility and domestication. Modern societies are literal manifestation of long-form debate, just as the sciences have evolved under technological scrutiny.

When diplomacy breaks down we find ourselves at war, such is the power of ideology. We took a wrong turn somewhere, and we need desperately to find a way back to one another.

A good place to start might be to take the time to listen…

As mentioned above, I’ve created a series of NFT’s alongside this post, on both Tezos and Ethereum blockchains (and yes, I’m happy to debate the energy question!). Most of my work currently appears on the Tezos network, an extraordinarily energy efficient ‘Proof of Stake’ blockchain. Ethereum however, remains the defacto network for now, with plans to migrate to a PoS protocol in Q3 2022.

Ethereum 1/1’s can be viewed here, whilst Tezos editions are here. Both collections are on personal smart contracts (Manifold/

Please feel free to leave a comment below and engage, or reach out to me directly;

I’d love it too if you’d consider subscribing to occasional artwork/content updates below. Fear not, I won’t be spamming you, but I would very much like to have your feedback even if that means you think I’ve missed the mark on something. All voices welcome!

Thanks for reading!

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *