Jerry Saltz Fires Back at Yau, “How Very Dickish”

The war of words between two major New York art critics escalated yesterday when Saltz used his very public Facebook wall to shoot back at Yau for the Brooklyn Rail art editor’s accusation of Saltz being a Koons apologist:

Saltz reiterated his disdain for Yau’s criticism in his recent Open Letter to Art Critics (PDF, 418 KB), which was also published on Saltz’s Facebook profile. Saltz wrote:

John Yao [sic], an art writer in New York, just spent like 2000 words trashing me for writing about a work of art he says he NEVER SAW! Hah! (I love it when people hate art they’ve never seen and hate the people who dared to like it.)

The New York Magazine critic has been attracting a great deal of attention in the last year from his very public messages on Facebook that can be more off the cuff, somewhat erratic, and less polished than his writing in print.

Most recently Saltz clashed with Washington, DC-based art blogger/critic Tyler Green and other art bloggers, journalists, and critics, who he indirectly referred to as, “Art Moralists.” The controversy began when art bloggers quickly reacted to the announcement of the new Imaginary Museum series at the New Museum, which will debut with an exhibition of the private collection of the institution’s trustee Dakis Joannou. The New Museum announcement raised red flags among bloggers about the ethics of the decision and the controversy expanded when the mainstream media took notice.1

The NY Mag critic dismissed the criticism and accused Green of writing in a tone that was “scolding, scornful, condescending, and smug, tinged with a verbal violence that was a little scary.” Though Saltz later suggested he may have had a change of heart on the matter when he picked William Powhida’s critical drawing about the controversy, which appeared on the cover of the November Brooklyn Rail as #2 in his Best of 2009 list. He wrote, “This single drawing changed art-world minds, including mine.” Though Saltz never specified how his opinion had shifted.

Image via @manbartlett

1 This paragraph was revised for accuracy. As someone correctly pointed out to me, the “Art Moralists” phrase really was intended for anyone who questioned the ethics of the New Museum decision, which included The Art Newspaper, The New York Times, and others.

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