Salle is the perfect art tour guide: literate, thoroughly entertaining, and insightful.




Seeing art through a painter’s eyes.

Salle is something of a Renaissance man. Known primarily as a painter, he has also done photography and set design, directed a film, and written essays. These concise pieces, many previously published in publications like Town & Country and Artforum, discuss mainly contemporary works of art, including film and ballet. It’s art criticism, but it’s also a breath of fresh air. There’s no jargon here, just accessible, witty, smartly informative short takes about works Salle enjoys. When looking at art, he writes, “take a work’s temperature, look at its surface energy.” He asks: “What makes a work of art tick, what makes it good?” Surprising, quirky comparisons abound. The 15th-century painter Piero Della Francesca is the “Elia Kazan of staging.” Alex Katz’s paintings are recognizable even when falling out of a plane at 30,000 feet. Thomas Houseago’s sculptures remind Salle of a scene in The Sopranos. Throughout, the author is honest and opinionated. When he first saw Roy Lichtenstein’s Reflections series, he was baffled. Frank Stella’s early works are “expansive, confident, and new as to be almost overwhelming.” In the later work, we see a “great champion of the ring, a little wobbly of knee, finally hit the canvas.” Of Oscar Murillo’s paintings, Salle writes, “there is no way to bring them to life, because they never lived in the first place.” Three essays are about John Baldessari, one of Salle’s college professors, who spent his career putting words and pictures together, “testing their stickiness and elasticity, using one to unravel, or to gather up, the other.” The German painter Albert Oehlen is a “terrific painter who flirts with disaster and gets away with it.” Jeff Koons makes the “thingyness of modern life…coherent.” His massive Flower Puppy, writes the author, is the “single greatest work of public sculpture made after Rodin that I’ve seen.”

Salle is the perfect art tour guide: literate, thoroughly entertaining, and insightful.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24813-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.


A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.


An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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