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New York Magazine's Art Critic Jerry Saltz Is Killing It At Instagram

02/06/2015 06:04 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015

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.

For Saltz,

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.

Mega-gallerist dumping artists who don't produce.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

"Let me help you," said the critic to the artist.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

The critic speaks?

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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).

Great 1935 drawing for "Corset with muscles". At Cooper Hewitt Museum. Bare bush in 1935?? #BringBackBush #Plush

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

Yo! 1700 private jets in Davos Switz. to discuss climate change at World Economic Forum. #FuckedPARADOX

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

Because every year's first visit must be The Met. French. 11th cen. #pallativeBabe

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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.

Happy or Something 60th Birthday Jeff Koons.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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.

TBT: Me and an old girlfriend back in our college rah-rah days.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

TBT: That time Roberta and I renewed our wedding vows.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

TBT: That time back at Florida State when you talked me into getting that tat

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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.

Take another little piece of my art ...

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

Pulling a rabbit out of my crotch.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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."

Comparative sizes of the United States and Antartica. Antartica is fucking HUGE.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

The New England fucking Patriots:

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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

Medieval vagina worship. Same as it ever was my brothers and sisters. Xo

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

When mega-galleries put off lots of fire but little heat or sometimes just blow it out their asses. Xo

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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).

Caption?? (Thoughts / observations??)

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

Caption??

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on


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.

Natural History Museum.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

(Upper left, upper right, lower right.) - I'm the President of the United States of Cows, bitches.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on

Yo. Bush.

A photo posted by Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) on