Glenn O’Brien and New York Mag's Jerry Saltz Talk Artsy Nudity, and Why You Should Never Insult Basquiat


New York Magazine’s art critic Jerry Saltz joined art journalist Glenn O’Brien on Made to Measure earlier this week for a conversation somewhere between high-brow, low-brow, and lower-brow. Saltz confesses that a few Pulitzer nominations weren’t enough to prevent him from getting kicked off Instagram for posting artsy nudes (well, okay, Charles Ray’s "Family Romance"); O’Brien discusses almost punching someone for disliking Basquiat. And the two tackle whether it’s possible to publish a negative review and still work in the business. Below, an excerpt:

Glenn O'Brien: Did you grow up wanting to be an art critic?

Jerry Saltz: No. [In] high school I was the worst kid in my class.

GO: Worst in what way?

JS: Well I think I was [ranked] — there was 458 of us and I think I was 458 or 457.

GO: Academically or social popularity?

JS: [My] social popularity was never that good, you can tell. And I noticed that the people in high school that were having sex were either in the theater world or the art world.

GO: Not sports?

JS: I didn’t know them. And I just thought, I’ve got to be in one of those worlds. And so I picked art, tried to go to art school, failed, and dropped out of art school. And that’s my education.

GO: When you were trying to go to art school, were you trying to be a painter?

JS: Yeah, it was the 1970s, painting was I think dead still then or about to be, and I was illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was like a 25-year project. And I got a National Endowment for the Arts grant and made the vast fortune of $2,500 and took it and moved to New York with it and it changed my life.

GO: So did you leave off Inferno or Paradiso or ... ?

JS: I made it to the third canto of Dante’s Inferno and then the daemons spoke to me. And they basically said “You’re no good at this. You can’t really do this, you haven’t been educated. You just can’t do it.” And most people don’t listen to that, but I listened. And I stopped making art.

GO: What was plan B?

JS: There was no plan B, except be incredibly bitter. And thinking [about] everybody in the art world, "Man, they all had money and I didn’t and they’ve got a better apartment than me and man, they got connections.” And so I became a long-distance truck driver. And that was the next phase.

Watch the whole video at M2M.