Critical Condition


Just as the 100 days before the diagnosis of a serious illness can be as fraught as the first days of the disease itself, art-world changes are often telegraphed in advance. I began sensing a shift—that things were happening in ways cynics and conservatives couldn’t see—when, last January, after I’d written a roundup of almost 90 winter shows, priggish, stuffy Mario Naves of The New York Observer, whom Artnet calls “the worst New York art critic” (he never describes work, always tells us what his kid thinks, and, by the way, makes generic abstract collages), hissed that I was “delusional” for liking some of these exhibitions. Basically, Naves claimed all the shows stank. He liked one exhibition I didn’t review, someone named Mark Ferguson at Cristinerose/Josee Bienvenu, whose drawings, he gushed, were “the most nuanced being produced today.” Fun critical catfight aside, Naves’s self-congratulatory bitch-slapping of me and the entire art scene suggested change was on the way.

I had the same premonition this summer on the steps of the British Pavilion in Venice. There, in the scorching heat, looking as pleased as punch, stood the puppet master himself, Charles Saatchi. He bragged to me about the “supremacy of British art,” crowed, “New York is dead,” and snidely chided, “How can you live in such a backward place?”

Maybe these naysayers are right, New York is dead. This would be fine because then they’d go away. Or maybe, as delusional as it seems, in several years we’ll be able to look at them and ask that wonderful question, “Where were you while we were getting high?”

Return to “Babylon Rising: Looking Ahead to the New Season, Our Critic Finds Plenty of Reasons to Be Cheerful” by Jerry Saltz