November 17, 2009

Critic on critic: Jerry Saltz tells DC blogger to get a grip



In a Vulture post about the New Museum's questionable curatorial practices, Saltz assesses the quality of the vociferous debate and courageously suggests that prickly blogger Tyler Green's criticism has crossed the line. "One of the main things that suggested all this indignation had gone too far was the witch-hunt tone of an editorial in the November issue of  Art Newspaper. The language in the piece — written by art blogger Tyler Green and published at the end of last week — was scolding, scornful, condescending, and smug, tinged with a verbal violence that was a little scary. The editorial begins with the false charge that private collector exhibitions are 'fluff shows.' Green sniffs that he’s 'especially disappointed' in the New Museum, and finishes by beseeching all museums to 'cancel' exhibitions of private collections. He demands that the Association of Art Museum Directors 'ban' these shows because they are 'an insult' to the art world. When I hear a word like 'ban,' I reach for my dictionary and review the definition of the word democracy.

"This kind of apparatchik rule-making feels off to me. Green has gotten into the habit of demanding that people be fired, reprimanded, or punished, as if only he knows right from wrong. He played a role in getting Grace Glueck fired from the Times for her 'conflict of interest.' After Village Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune talked about his dual roles as a critic and an employee of an art fair, Green accused him of indulging 'a textbook case of unethical conflict-of-interest' that struck 'at the very heart of ... integrity' and 'flouted journalistic norms.' Green sneered that he was 'troubled' by this behavior and publicly asked the Voice to 'stop publishing' Viveros-Faune. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened. The Voice and the art world lost a tremendous voice....

"I know it’s dangerous to take on bloggers. They can go after you every day, all day long, and anonymous people can chime in, too. Already this week Green has branded me an 'up-with-art cheerleader,' chortled 'balderdash' at something I wrote, and is now even writing comments on my Facebook page and publishing other of my Facebook comments on his public blog. Still, come what may, I’m tired of the hate fest."

In a conciliatory response, Green writes in the Comments thread (and on Saltz's Facebook wall): "I'm proud of the positions I've taken on a range of issues. It is true that I've taken assertive, principled positions on a range of issues. I'd be happy to engage in a dialogue on any of those positions. ...I don't hate you."

Update, November 17: On Jerry's Facebook wall, Green says the debate isn't about him, it's about the New Museum. Nice guy Ed Winkleman has called for a public debate between Saltz and Green. Newsgrist's Joy Garnett says hell yes! to a public debate, but suggests it be between the NY Times art critic Ken Johnson, who has been a regular contributor in Saltz's Facebook wall debates about the New Museum, and Saltz.  At Twitter, Paddy Johnson (@artfagcity) Hrag Vartanian (@hragv) and William Powhida (@powhida) think Saltz's stance against Green is about defending the art world he knows and loves against Green's bullying, not about changing his mind concerning the New Museum's arguably corrupt exhibition policies. "Jerry loves [the art world] despite its flaws--his own ugly baby," writes Powhida.

Update, November 17: Later in the day, Saltz and artnet editor Walter Robinson gang up on Green's positions via Facebook, particularly what they see as his impossibly idealistic vision of a conflict-of-interest-free artworld. Unfortunately, by the time I return to HQ from the University Senate, the entire discussion has been deleted. On Twitter Hrag suggests that one of Powhida's next cartoons for The Rail might be a pissing contest between Saltz and Green. Powhida agrees that the idea is tempting.

Update, November 18: In a call for a more level-headed, less ad hominem discussion, blogger James Wagner, the first  to publicly criticize New Museum practices, tries to get the derailed debate back on track. "Saltz isn't the only commentator who has failed to recognize the merits of the arguments of the people whom he describes as having 'harped' on the ethics of the NuMu/Joannou deal, but at least he doesn't question their integrity. I've seen a number of writers do just that, having failed to see the problem. They're questioning the motives of what one source refers to as the 'morality police,'  asking what kind of grudge the critics of the arrangement might have against the principals involved....The merits of the argument are genuine. I don't doubt that they can be intelligently disputed, but only if they are understood and if hysterics can be avoided on all sides."

Update: After suggesting that the art world should be regulated, and that New Museum’s decision to exhibit the collection of Trustee Dakis Joannou indeed represents a conflict of interest,  Paddy Johnson adds one final note. "While I have at times found blogger Tyler Green’s tone needlessly aggressive, the response has been much more troubling. As a result I’m going to let this story simmer down and will slow our coverage for the next couple of days." In the Comments section, Sky Pape reports that Jerry Saltz deleted the missing thread himself. "It wasn’t a FB glitch. I’m kind of glad this happened - the tone was not pleasant, and it was looking like it would escalate out of hand." According to Green, when he complained to Saltz, the thread was deleted from his Facebook wall.

Related Links (via Art Observed):
Controversy over New Museum’s plans to show trustee’s collection [The Art Newspaper]
Turning a museum into a vanity space [Tyler Green for The Art Newspaper]
The New Museum responds [The Art Newspaper]
The NuMu ethics story hits the NYT’s front page [Modern Art Notes]
The Met’s director: We’re closer to NuMu than to MoMA [Modern Art Notes]
Saltz: Money, Insularity, and a Huge Controversy for the New Museum [New York Magazine]
Art Morality [New York Magazine]
Some Object as Museum Shows Its Trustee’s Art [NY Times]
The New Museum’s Web of Connections [NY Times]
Museum Directors on Collectors and Exhibitions [NY Times]
The New Museum’s Position on Its Show From a Trustee’s Collection
The Appendix: New Museum Scandal Edition [Artinfo]
NuMu Boo Boo [Time]
New Museum Brouhaha Goes Supernova [Artnet]
New Museum commits suicide with banality [James Wagner]
The November Brooklyn Rail Cover [William Powhida]
New Museum Controversy Grows with its Announced Plans to Show Trustee’s Art [Art Fag City]
Jeff Koons and The Perils of an Unregulated Art World [Art Fag City]
The New York Museum Director Witch Hunt Begins [Art Fag City]
The Authority of the New Museum [Art Market Monitor]
Like a Face Tattoo  [Butler at Buckwalter]


8 comments:

I'd be grateful if readers would take note of my comments on Jerry Saltz's Facebook update or on the 'Vulture' post itself. There are numerous yet-to-be-corrected factual errors in Saltz's post.

I do not have an "idealistic dream of a conflict-free artworld." I have never expressed such a "dream."

T

Edited that phrase for clarity.
--Sharon

oh im so glad it didn't escalate out of hand. Someone seems to have borrowed my pitchfork and the oil is a bit low.

Escalation? Really? Don't rock my boat people.

One of the brightest pieces yet on the topic.

http://haberarts.com/blog/2009/11/a-museums-shakedown/

Great roundup of all this back-and-forth, Sharon. Thanks!

-----sharon------
good job collecting this story-
Jerry salt's complaining about Tyler Green a blogger!
What a joke-
his "face book" page and " wall" -.
I took it down I took it down!!!!!!!

I think he got an award for??? networking.
Talk about taking things for granted,

Loved the image of the gorillas-
one of them must be impotent?
maybe finally there is a changing of the guard coming; I'm so sick of some of these power broker people in new york.

Chiming in from the future to say this is still a great wrap-up of all these fights. Thanks.

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