From the Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of How to Be an Artist: a deliciously readable survey of the art world in turbulent times
Jerry Saltz is one of our most-watched writers about art and artists, and a passionate champion of the importance of art in our shared cultural life. Since the 1990s he has been an indispensable cultural voice: witty and provocative, he has attracted contemporary readers to fine art as few critics have. An early champion of forgotten and overlooked women artists, he has also celebrated the pioneering work of African American, LGBTQ+, and other long-marginalized creators. Sotheby's Institute of Art has called him, simply, “the art critic.”
Now, in Art Is Life, Jerry Saltz draws on two decades of work to offer a real-time survey of contemporary art as a barometer of our times. Chronicling a period punctuated by dramatic turning points—from the cultural reset of 9/11 to the rolling social crises of today—Saltz traces how visionary artists have both documented and challenged the culture. Art Is Life offers Saltz’s eye-opening appraisals of trailblazers like Kara Walker, David Wojnarowicz, Hilma af Klint, and Jasper Johns; provocateurs like Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Marina Abramović; and visionaries like Jackson Pollock, Bill Traylor, and Willem de Kooning. Saltz celebrates landmarks like the Obama portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, writes searchingly about disturbing moments such as the Ankara gallery assassination, and offers surprising takes on figures from Thomas Kinkade to Kim Kardashian. And he shares stories of his own haunted childhood, his time as a “failed artist,” and his epiphanies upon beholding work by Botticelli, Delacroix, and the cave painters of Niaux.
With his signature blend of candor and conviction, Jerry Saltz argues in Art Is Life for the importance of the fearless artist—reminding us that art is a kind of channeled voice of human experience, a necessary window onto our times. The result is an openhearted and irresistibly readable appraisal by one of our most important cultural observers.
About the Author
Jerry Saltz is the senior art critic at New York magazine and its entertainment site Vulture, and the author of the New York Times bestseller How to Be an Artist. In 2018 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. A frequent guest lecturer at major universities and museums, he has spoken at Harvard University, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and many other venues, and has taught at Columbia University, Yale University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere.
Praise for Art is Life:
“From Kara Walker to Georgia O’Keeffe to Andy Warhol, Saltz surveys the contemporary art world with brilliant brush strokes.” —TIME
“Whether considering a poorly understood painter from history or assessing the new and controversial, Saltz manages to impart his belief that art involves story, and storymaking is the stuff of life. His philosophy, like the man himself, is ageless.” —Los Angeles Times
“A love letter to the art that, for Saltz, makes all the wheeling and dealing worth putting up with. . . . Saltz [has a] rare ability to articulate the mysterious alchemy of great art, the ways in which looking at some pigment on canvas can somehow blow open doors within the soul to reveal expansive, unknown places.” —New York Times Book Review
“Art is Life is a near-perfect summary of a singularly critical voice. . . . despite writing about a medium that tends more toward solemn nods than squeals of excitement, Jerry Saltz can be very fun to read.” —Chicago Tribune
“[Saltz] looks at the various crises and New York City’s art scene—the aftermath of 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, the coronavirus pandemic—and depicts an ebullient yet fragile world undergoing perpetual reinvention. He writes formidable portraits of people such as Beauford Delaney and describes the jaw-dropping splendor of Paleolithic cave paintings in Niaux, France. He worships artwork while denouncing the excesses of its business, taking pleasure in ridiculing the frequently obscene industry’s theatrical auctions and overinflated cycle of openings, biennials, and fairs.” —Farah Abdessamad, The Atlantic
“Personal and entertaining.” —Garden & Gun
“Eminently accessible, often humorous (he is a master of the sharp parenthetical aside), and stimulating. The art world is convoluted, but Saltz cuts right through it.” —Publishers Weekly
“Illuminating . . . A sweeping survey and fervent defense of the value of art in modern life.” —Kirkus Reviews
“There's no one quite like Saltz. . . . He's the best art critic working today.”—Shelf Awareness
Praise for Jerry Saltz:
“The world’s most famous and celebrated contemporary art critic.” —GQ
“One of the most powerful art critics today.” —Time Out
“A critic of the people, bringing art to a broader audience.” —Architectural Digest