Monday, October 17, 2016

JERRY SALTZ- THE DONALD TRUMP OF ART WORLD SOCIAL MEDIA by Leah Dixon and Lauren Christiansen




Yesterday as I was recovering from another unfortunate night of self-immolation I was checking my Facebook feed and a post by Leah Dixon and Lauren Christiansen popped up and it grabbed my undivided attention. The post is entitled: JERRY SALTZ- THE DONALD TRUMP OF ART WORLD SOCIAL MEDIA and it had me literally grinning and laughing out loud. Essentially it is a take down of Jerry Saltz, an art critic at New York Magazine. He has been around NYC for a long time and my first anecdote of him was relayed to me from a doyenne of the gilded Soho era describing him as an ingratiating twit. This probably colored my constant distaste for all things Saltz but over the years Saltz has proven himself to be deserving of that prejudice.

Do I know him personally? No. Do I follow him on social media? No. This has been by choice because even without any of this direct contact Saltz still seems to ooze into the art world landscape even when you are trying to avoid it. The thing about Saltz that makes me so dismissive is his writing. It is bad. But in the art world that doesn’t mean much anymore. You can be really bad at something but still have a miniature power and Saltz has capitalized on this with an impish relish that luckily has faded away like that terrible reality gallery TV show he was on.

I’m going to say something a bit mean and crass: Roberta Smith is Jerry Saltz’ dick.

I have said this to many people over many years. What I mean by this is that the only real power/legitimacy that Saltz has is the fact that he is married to Roberta Smith who is an art critic for the New York Times. She is a good writer. She is respected. She has the chops and influence. I say it because without her I really have no other explanation of how/why Saltz has lasted and has been as vaunted as he is.

When I read Dixon and Christiansen’s very thoughtful and honest articulation of the massively pervy behavior of Saltz on social media I thought back to another thing I would say about him. When people would ask why I don’t read Saltz’ reviews or care to I would say it’s like watching Fox News. I don’t need to watch it just to say I have and if I do then it will only infuriate and perpetuate something that is vile and frankly stupid. The comparison of Saltz to Trump in their post really hits the mark.

I’m delighted that Dixon and Christiansen took the time to write this and they are better then I, and most of us, for not just pretending it doesn’t exist by ignoring it. It’s high time that sexist men in the art world are called out publically. Thank you to the writers and here’s hoping that the art world starts clearing out and taking responsibility for all this white male privilege garbage.

Below is a copy/paste of Dixon and Christiansen’s post. Enjoy!


October 15, 2016 4:28pm via Facebook

JERRY SALTZ- THE DONALD TRUMP OF ART WORLD SOCIAL MEDIA
Leah Dixon and I [Lauren Christiansen] sat in our living room in Chinatown and wrote this. We had to get it out- for we are both angry and in a state of utter disbelief that we are here… and that we are both participants in its legacy. We both make casual comments to each other from time to time about how we can’t believe what Jerry Saltz gets away with… and why? On the heels of Michelle Obama’s speech in New Hampshire, we decided to finally put it in words- and to admit that we are fed up, confused, and ashamed that we are a part of an art world that is letting this behavior continue.

You would think by looking at Jerry Saltz's instagram, and viewing his general media presence, that there is nothing going on in the world besides the fact that half of the population owns a vagina. We have waited to see if he would eventually evolve… if eventually he might become interested in communicating something besides other people’s genitalia, and move onto a more relevant topic- his obvious and continued mid-life crisis. It only takes thirty seconds on Saltz’s instagram to see how destructive and trivial his interests are. How he is using his power to openly fetishize female bodies, in lieu of actually presenting valid cultural critique. Honestly, one out of every three of his posts is a vagina. LITERALLY… maybe even more. The even bigger problem is that you could spend not just thirty seconds, but three hours on his instagram- because it goes on and on. We just did it. It was awful, and most of all, really stupid. It is basically his entire personal brand… a brand that is brazen and unconsidered, and is hard to separate from his criticism.

So we have to admit that one of the first things we thought of when the tapes of Trump's lewd comments leaked was, "THANK GOD, finally this is going to make Jerry Saltz stop." We barely even payed conscious attention to Saltz on social media prior to this. However his weenie-ness somehow manages to noodle its way into our periphery... and then 1500 people "like" it. The more that social media uses optimizing tools, the harder it is to avoid him. That is why when the media became completely overrun by Trump's horrifying sexist remarks and scandals, we thought that it would finally drown out Jerry's irrelevant vagina obsession. But somehow- he just kept it up... like the sad clown at the county fair who keeps juggling even when no one is looking. But our misogynistic art culture continues to prize persistence and consistency over awareness. Like the more male artists/writers/critics who go into a white room, or their bedroom, and do the same thing over and over- the more we are supposed to praise their heroic pursuit of their own neuroses? Ok fine- but then they had better come up with more relevant content than representing a body part that 50% of us actually own in the flesh. We get it Jerry. We have one. If you want to know what it’s like, we would say just ask us- but please don’t. You have already creeped us out.

What is even more upsetting is that he is highly aware of what he is doing… so aware in fact, that he sometimes demands permission for his tendencies. “Please allow me one geezer sexist moment: EVERY time EVERY straight man sees a woman naked in person he thinks 'What a miracle. I am SO lucky.' Every time; every woman; every time. - I suck the cold air deep inside of me..." He says this as if women are mythical creatures inhabiting a far off land. How did he possibly manage make the female form about him and his luck?! The sucking air reference is apt, for it is a perfect metaphor for misogyny- which often times shows the buffoonish man claiming the role of both the aggressor and the victim- commodifying women, and then claiming misunderstanding, or a misguided attempt at adoration, as the excuse. This behavior is dangerous- and conceptually violent, for it allows the misogynist to inhabit both roles in the exchange. It leaves no space for the women at all... figuratively sucking up all the air in the room. Unfortunately in Saltz's case, when he breathes the air back out- it is tinged with a sour odor, that everyone is somehow supposed to be ok with smelling. Well we are here to tell you Jerry that your shit stinks.

Upon a bit of further research, it is easy to find instances of people in the art world calling Saltz out for his blatant sexism and de-valuation of women. It is also just as easy to find his responses. Here is an example of one of his responses to people denouncing his Facebook page’s portrayal of women… “I hope that all of these finger-pointing little Napoleons get a grip and go elsewhere." Sorry Jerry. We have vaginas. We have brains. And we are here to stay. And truth be told, we'll be here a lot longer than you will be.
Yet un-surpringsingly, every time someone calls him out- someone else zooms to his defense. ArtNews co-executive editor Andrew Russeth praises the “gutsiness” of Saltz. Russeth has this to say… "Everything would say that as an art critic, you should be serious, you should be really considered, extremely deliberate... He was willing to experiment and make himself a character in the public sphere."

Uuummmm…… WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We would like to ask, what's the experiment?! To see how much white men can get away with??? We already know that answer... a lot. Jerry has always been in the seat of someone who was going to get away with too much. He has nestled himself inside of a womb of entitlement. There is nothing bold or “gutsy” about being a misogynist in public. It's as if by calling Saltz a "character" it relieves him of all ethical and critical responsibility. It's like praising the idiot savant. He is an idiot when it comes to his representation of women, and a savant at taking advantage of a system that enables people to get away with it.

Since the beginning of Western art history, our cultural story has virtually ONLY been told by white men… so in fact, letting another one flail around un-checked is absolutely the LEAST “experimental” thing one can do. Why are we continually giving this behavior so much space? There is something borderline sociopathic about how this operates in the art-world, because like many educated men, Saltz proclaims himself to be a "Feminist”- therefore blocking him from criticism of the exploitative ways that he is displaying his so-called admiration of femininity. But a critical responder can see that by displaying his "admiration" for women, he is backhandedly attempting to define them… and he is doing so in the most carelessly flat, horny, groveling way possible. We aren’t even given the chance to have an open discussion with him. We would never want to sit in the same room with him, since he has consistently made it apparent that our words would be drowned out by his fixation on our nether-regions. It is violating and lazy. He is using attempted shock value to deflect responsibility away from himself as a contemporary voice, and justify his misogyny and commodification via shallow art-historical references. It’s blatant sexism hiding behind a shell of empathy and institutional allowance, with none of the accountability.

We are projecting that just like Donald Trump, his inevitable defense would to this would be “No one loves women more than I do!” Well Jerry. We don't care what you love. Shut up. You’ve had your time.

Saltz has said that he sees his work as flattening the hierarchy of art criticism. This is highly hypocritical coming from a person who told his detractors to “get a grip and go elsewhere.” On the other hand, the hierarchy is somewhat successfully being flattened- not by him, but by the thousands of hopeful voices out there, who are actually doing the hard work. With the increased empowerment and networking of artists- specifically artists who are women and or minorities, art critics have never been less important. It is fitting that a person whose critical tendencies leave him continually returning to more bigoted times in art history, might turn to shock value and “character” building as a way to keep the old dog from having to learn new tricks.

Jerry, we are not asking you to go away. We are simply asking you to employ the same level of imagination, awareness, and adaptability that is crucial to participants in the art world right now… especially the ones with vaginas. If you can't manage to update your schtick, then potentially retirement is an option. You are no victim Jerry. You cannot claim to have misunderstood. You don't get to say "whoopsies!" You have been very successful and had a long career. We are now going to spray some Febreeze, open the windows, and allow more air in for everyone else. There are so many other people whose voices and opinions are coming from a place of actual power… one that has been earned by doing much more than constantly noting each other’s anatomy.