Ask an Art Critic: Jerry Saltz on Conflicts of Interest, Tribes of Shyness, and High Hopes for the New Museum — Vulture

by Art Fag City on November 12, 2010 · 5 comments Fresh Links!


Jerrysaltz November 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Paddy Johnson,

Wow! Boy is that NOT what I meant!
I am a long time fan and now a friend of the immensely talented, to-me visionary curator Laura Hoptman. I also think she’s one of the best writers around, anywhere. I think that Hoptman curated a number of excellent shows at the New Museum – and have said so in print. Her Jeremy Deller show about the Iraq War was one of the best most political shows of the entire Iraq War period.

For whatever reasons Hoptman chose to leave for MoMA. I think she could be of tremendous help to MoMA, not least because she is the very rare curator with no fear-of-painting, no fear-of-pleasure.

I am very sorry if what I wrote in my “Ask an Art Critic” column made it seem like I thought Hoptman wasn’t up to the job at the New Museum. On the contrary. If anything, perhaps the New Museum was not up to Laura Hoptman. Both Hoptman and the New Museum should be thrilled and proud with the exhibitions she did curated and co-curated while there.

I am sorry for the lack of clarity in my own Ask an Art Critic answer; and feel sad if I made it seem that there was any anti-Hoptman sub-text. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hoptman has helped my work and made me see things I might not have seen otherwise.

Thank you,
Jerry Saltz

Anonymous November 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hey Jerry, Thanks for your comment. I think the early Tomma Abts show was great (and criminally overlooked even if Ken Johnson did a good job with it at the times), but for the most part I haven’t been overly impressed with how painting has been handled at the museum. Both Heilmann and Peyton should have been smaller than they were and Steven Shearer didn’t need a show at all (though it’s a stretch to call him just painting).I’ll agree that Hoptmann has seen some great successes as a curator, and part of that is that she’s known for really listening to artists and having them really direct their shows. But the downside to that approach is that sometimes these exhibitions are plagued by poor editing. It has most frequently showed up in her painting shows at The New Museum — probably because that’s a particularly unforgiving medium when it comes to selection. But getting back to “ask a critic”, from your response to “what do you think about the New Museum”, from what you’ve said here and in your column, it sounds like you think that bad luck is the source of most of their problems. Urs Fischer had a bad show and you can’t control that. Their building has a lot of problems, and it’s hard to know whether this will be the case until you have the space. A few of their solo shows haven’t worked out, but they were given to the right artists. I’ll buy all but the last point. I’m not convinced merely giving someone a show who deserved it needs lauding. To me the argument sounds like “It’s better than nothing”, and I think that’s a pretty low bar to be setting for a world class museum.

Jerrysaltz November 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Dear Paddy,
Thank you for ‘printing’ my above comment.
I do not think that the New Museum’s woes are due to “bad luck” AT ALL.
I’ve written many times that I think that the space is deadening, the programming is very uneven, sometimes misguided, and that Lisa Phillip’s policy of team-curating was terrible in some cases. None of that is “bad luck.” It is bad thinking.

On my Facebook Page I made a list of artists I thought could have one-person shows at the New Museum. Do you care to name ten living artists you think ought to be given solo shows at the New Museum (who haven’t been shown at another NYC museum already). I think that the current William Copley show of erotic paintings at Paul Kasmin is pretty extraordinary and would have made a great show at the New Museum. But I asked for living artists, so I’m cheating.

Thank you,


Jerrysaltz November 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

PS. I am not a big Abts fan.

Anonymous November 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I will come up with a list of ten living artists that I think should have solo shows and post them on the blog next week. It will be a good list.

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