‘Be a freedom machine’: Jerry Saltz Offers 5 More Tips for Art Students
September 14, 2016
An older man with white hair posing for the camera.
An old man wearing a brown jacket and glasses that has big puffy white hair.

Back in February, New York magazine senior art critic Jerry Saltz discussed his impressive career with a packed room during a talk hosted by the MFA Fine Arts department at SVA. Highlights from that insightful, entertaining and quip-filled lecture were posted in the form of “10 Tips for Art Students” here. Saltz returned to SVA this summer, this time for a talk hosted by MFA Art Practice, and he was no less captivating. Now that the new school year has kicked off, we thought it would be a good time to share five pieces of wisdom from that lively discussion, followed by his original 10.

1) As so many artists have said: Work comes from work. Always be working. You have to keep changing. Be a freedom machine.

2) In New York, you are whatever you say you are. You do have to go out and be that person, however.

3) It’s the best time to be an artist. There’s no real power structure and anyone can achieve success.

4) Read D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature.

5) Theory is important. There are guys who go, “I don’t think theory is important.” I always tell them, "That’s your theory, you idiot!"

A man at a Sotheby's podium flipping off the camera.

‘You need to be vampires…': Jerry Saltz’s 10 Tips for Art Students

1) Pleasure is an important form of knowledge.

2) Envy will eat you alive; cynicism will eat your work alive.

3) Cynicism simply thinks it knows the truth. It is Republican in character. It believes in certainty; the art world believes in paradox.

4) You have to have doubts. It’s okay if you look at a Rembrandt and go, “It’s kinda brown.”

5) Art critics cannot make or break an artist. Believe me I have tried.

6) You need to be vampires who live in the city with your fellow artists. And stay up all night together.

7) Be in contact with artists all the time. If you don’t, your work will die because you will wake up one day and think you know it all.

8) You need one dealer, one critic, two curators, and three-to-five collectors to be a successful artist. Can you get 10 to 15 people to like your work? You don’t need to be part of a big system.

9) Everyone is sincere. Even Jeff Koons. He’s kinda weird and speaks like a Teletubby but even he’s capable of creating the flower Puppy that made me so incredibly happy. It was like The Beatles.

10) Demons will speak to you till you start working. Then you have newer demons. Work with them. Work. Just work. Or don’t and…