New York Magazine's Art Critic Jerry Saltz maintains a pretty fantastic instagram account. With over 900 posts, 87,000 followers, and a committed audience of likers and commenters, Saltz has generated something of a house style for punny-and-irreverent instagramming. He defies any real sense of instagram decorum (if there in fact ever was one) and draws attention to instagram's slanted censorship practices: how "pictures of a cow sniffing a man's ass get deleted and a 17th-century French painting axed because it had a wisp of dark pubic hair is beyond me." Saltz references major art world players and tags photos with absurd hashtags, sprinkling expletives liberally throughout (fucking is a favorite).
As a one-time intern at New York Magazine and a forever-fan of Saltz's wry wit and unapologetically eccentric writing style, I am claiming partial-expert status on the subject that is his instagram activity. Some may look to Saltz's 'grams as emblems of the shifting landscape of arts criticism or as an indication of the future role of arts critics. Others look simply to be amused.
Instagram is a land of the midnight sun, a wide-open place that's always lit up, bristling with visions, pictures, strangers, shooting stars, screwballs, and well-known artists posting images from everywhere, together creating this immense abstract missive or amazing rebus that seems to speak just to me, the curious curator of my own lit-up Instagramland.
With that most lyrical, wildly florid description as our base, let's proceed forth into the social media wonderland that is Saltz's 'Instagramland.'
1. The Critic's Critic
Saltz frequently chips away at the asymmetrical power dynamics between critics and artists, as well as gallerists and artists. Coming from a critic, this makes for a sort of meta-statement about the art establishment. Followers appreciate his cynical tone and frank depiction of the fraught power structure inherent in the contemporary art world. Also appreciated: his cropped renderings of unidentifiable nude creatures and attention paid to sad, wounded dragons.
2. The Wacky Hashtagger
Saltz doesn't need to hashtag his Throwback Thursdays to get them to trend. With each one-of-a-kind hashtag, it seems increasingly clear that Saltz marches to the beat of his own instagram drum. In hashtags he celebrates female pubic hair (#BringBackBush, #Plush), criticizes cultural hypocrisies (#FuckedPARADOX), and makes historic bits of the Met more amusing to his followers (#palliativeBabe).
3. The Art Insider Jokester
Saltz renders the artist Jeff Koons as a purple teletubby and refers to mega-gallerist Larry Gagosian as "Larry Gogo." He frequently makes reference to MoMA Director Klaus Biesenbach and artists Marina Abramovic, James Franco and Lady Gaga as characters in absurd images. If there's anything the high art world needs more of, it's terribly photoshopped images of Jeff Koons and jabs at billionaires. Please, more, and thank you.
4. The LowBrow Archivist
When he does use a #tbt for the widely respected instagram-holiday Throwback Thursday, it's genius. Case in point: A black-and-white photo wherein a man wearing an impressive bear-fur onesie has the caption "TBT: me and an old girlfriend back in our college rah-rah days." Another: a woman in lingerie-meets-bridal attire holding a baby and standing alongside a banana hammock-clad man. The caption? "TBT: That time Roberta and I renewed our wedding vows." (Roberta refers to his wife, the famed New York Times critic Roberta Smith). With cheeky captions and wild abandon, Saltz celebrates all the fun bits of lowbrow culture (fake tans, shotgun weddings, unflattering tattoos) and we love him all the more for it.
5. The Punny Medievalist
He captions a gory illuminated manuscript illustration with a Janis Joplin lyric, refers to a castration scene as a "fun old ABMB pic" (ABMB for Art Basel Miami Beach), and cynically says he's "losing his religion" at said art fair. Sometimes he writes captions with blunt one-liners: "pulling a rabbit out of my crotch." His affinity for medieval illustration and ability to command a lovable-but-sardonic tone in describing them contribute greatly to the rich tapestry of his followers' instagram feeds.
6. The Effing Mother Effer
Saltz loves to drop an f-bomb here or there, for emphatic sake. He uses it with purpose: to account for Antarctica's size (HUGE), to mock the New England Patriots, and to point out deluded artists' press releases. What an infovore he is! Two effing trends we particularly liked: "ducking" and "#motherfucker."
7. The Gossip Gurl At Heart, xoxo
He gives us a Judy Chicago-esque vagina image, calls us brother and sister, and seals it with an xo. He talks about mega-gallerists in the context of fires and their asses. He wins a National Magazine award and thanks us: "I can't write if writing is without you." He loves his mothership New York Magazine. We love him. xoxo
8. The One Who Loves Audience Engagement
An absurd photo of a woman in power stance selling guns leaves Saltz near-speechless: "Caption?? (Thoughts / observations??)" This critic cares what we think! He wants us to engage. The responses he gets prove that it was well worth it: "The higher the hair the closer to Jesus" (@witchwoman), "Is this really Jane Seymour's target consumer for her new Kay Jewelers open hearts collection? Cause little miss sunshine is wearing da necklace." (@kdotteson), and "Housewives of Beverly Guns" (@apinkstone).
9. The #ArtSelfie Queen
He takes pictures with rams (in the Natural History Museum), with cows ("I'm the President of the United States of Cows, bitches"), and alongside a lampshade with former president George W. Bush's face plastered across it. And, well, the people love it. The commenters say he rules, he's the best, he has a great sense of humor. If you couldn't tell already, we agree. One follower took it to the next level: "You literally save my life! I can't even thank you enough! This account is so random, yet! It keeps its artistic vibe!"
What an instagram sensation.