Last month's publication of My Jerry Saltz Problem, my essay on art criticism and new media, generated quite a conversation in the circles of, well, art criticism and new media. The article became the most heavily trafficked piece on The New Criterion website. Much of the attention came by way of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and personal blogs.
Sadly, I had my last correspondence with the late Denis Dutton over the article, who posted it at Arts and Letters Daily. His wonderful website sent thousands of readers to the article. Our back and forth over the piece is also how I learned of his tragic and terminal diagnosis. He passed away only a few weeks later.
Other sites picked up the essay as well, including Andrew Sullivan's blog at The Atlantic, the College Art Association (CAA), and the Economist. Several bloggers also gave it due consideration. The painter and blogger Sharon Butler called my essay "a spiritedly discursive philippic" and wrote a spirited rebuttal on her site Two Coats of Paint (I wrote more about that here). Matthew Miller at Millinerd.com wrote that "the internet should facilitate friendships and cultural encounters, not replace them." The artist Paul McLean at "Artforhumans" said the essay was "An astounding piece of analysis... a must read." The writer Victor Infante called the essay "equal parts honest concern for the art form, reactionary venom and no small degree of jealousy." In her own smart post, Claudine Ise at Artslant wrote that "Panero’s critique is the most persuasive I’ve yet read, though I could have done without some of his prose, which seemed to border on jealous personal attack." It's interesting that in her follow-up, Ise writes of the response from some of Saltz's Facebook Friends: "Dear God, though, many of them sure are the fawning type."
And then there were the hundreds of readers who Tweeted and posted the piece to Facebook. The photographer Damien Franco called it "fantastic reading." Giovanni Garcia-Fenech, a self-described "pissy painter," said he would "post it on [Saltz's] Facebook wall but he dumped me for not commenting enough."
The critic Jerry Saltz himself, the personality at the center of my cautionary note, used his rollout on Twitter to announce that "Some people's 'Jerry Saltz Problem just acted up. Entertainment Weekly just named me Best New Reality TV Judge' of the year. Hah!" (December 23). He also said that "Chicken Littles and self-styled Savonarolas with 'Jerry Saltz Problems' Baer Fax 'Reader’s Poll' just voted me “Best Art Critic.'" (December 29).
UPDATE! Garcia-Fenech writes in: "In the interest of fairness, I have to add that Jerry Saltz 'friended' me on Facebook after I made that comment about being unfriended, and I then saw that Panero's article had already been posted on his Facebook Wall by someone else. Saltz acknowledges the article and acknowledges that some people like what he's doing and others don't, and adds that that's how it should be, but doesn't respond to specific points raised in the piece."
So, were there any solutions to my "problem"? The responses helped my thinking. In my next New Criterion column, I have written a follow-up to the essay that takes into account the positive potential of art criticism and new media. Again I focus on one personality--in this case, Loren Munk, a painter and video blogger who has been at the center of a new social art criticism. I also look at some current shows including "I Like the Art World and the Art World Likes Me" at the Elizabeth Foundation. Below are two pictures of Munk--one in his studio, the other filming his James Kalm Report at a gallery.
Look for my complete essay at newcriterion.com and in print on February 1.
UPDATE: My "immense self regard" has just been inflated by Artnet! On his Twitter feed, Walter Robinson accuses me of "exactly that" in writing this post--which he quickly learned about, I suspect, by obsessing over his inclusion in "Art Basel Miami Beach Hooverville" by William Powhida and Jade Townsend (I first mentioned this post on a Facebook thread concerning the image). So, self-regard is clearly something Robinson knows. I appreciate his expertise. But I would argue I'm up to something different here than Robinson's own cyber-stalking. In fact, my interest has been to gather and draw attention to everyone else who wrote about the essay--hence, the links--and the mixed response ("reactionary venom...jealousy" etc). What perplexes me is Robinson's own "venom." I can only imagine he is out to settle some old score with Hilton Kramer by proxy. Anyway, I appreciate the link. The conversation continues!