New York Magazine's art critic Jerry Saltz loves Gerhard Richter's paintings. A lot. So much so that on his Facebook page, the three-time Pulitzer nominee offered either $1,000 or a sex act (plus the cost of materials) to any artist who
can make me a Richter that looks EXACTLY like an abstract Richter - more or less indistinguishable from the real thing. (You can sign your own name on the back of the damn thing; I just love these and want one.)...Offer: $1000.00 plus materials. I'd like a biggish one.
After several hundred comments and offers responding to his Facebook posting, Saltz further clarified his immodest proposal:
1. We agree that you will make me a Richter.
2. We agree on size and cost.
3. You make it.
4. A curator from a MAJOR NY Museum inspects it.
5. IF he/she cannot distinguish it (more or less) from real thing, then I
A. I pay you the amount of money we agreed on previously.
B. You get a bj or female equivalent.
Saltz, a judge on the Bravo television program Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, is married to New York Times senior art critic Roberta Smith, and has a reputation for being -- as behooves a critic -- outspoken, irreverent and pranksterish. He relishes discourse and uses his Facebook page as a forum for discussion, bantering and repartee.
So is this offer Saltz's way of provoking, of trolling to see what kind of a response/reaction a call for a Richter manqué will get, to subversively question and explore the value of art? Is a painting worth $18 million solely because of the artist's name and reputation? Can a $1,000 version of an artist's work by another artist inspire the same awe as an original? And wouldn't you rather spend that cash on one or two emerging artists' originals that you love, rather than ordering up a replica much like lunch delivery from the local deli?
Is Saltz's desire to prank and play, to pull an art stunt, to provoke like Orson Welles' F is for Fake? Or does he so lust after Richter (and Marsden Hartley, another painter whose style he'd like reproduced for a low price), that he is willing to cross the line and solicit what is essentially a forgery/plagiarism/replica, which he'd like to pass muster with a major New York curator? When asked which curator/s exactly he had in mind, Saltz declined to name anyone. One of Saltz's Facebook friends, who earlier in the discussion raised the issues of copyright and ethics, questioned Saltz about having Marian Goodman, Richter's dealer judge the fake work, Saltz responded:
She is an art dealer. Richter's art dealer in New York City. I think that makes her too invested.
Another question that Saltz's offer raises: By suggesting that an artist could and would possibly copy Richter's Abstract Expressionist style, is Saltz tipping his hat to the "my kid could that" middlebrow consumer critiques of AbEx that began with Life magazine's 1949 spread on Jackson Pollock and continued through to Cy Twombly and beyond?
Saltz claims he is currently weighing the merits of the artists who have pitched themselves to create in the style of Richter. One name that popped up repeatedly was Eric Doeringer, the notorious art bootlegger whose work is championed by Saltz. (The critic says that Doeringer's work is deserving of a Whitney Biennial show; Saltz owns Doeringer's version of Christopher Wool's "Riot", which cost him $35, and says he discussed having Doeringer copy one of Damien Hirst's skulls). Doeringer commented in the Facebook thread:
I've made little "Bootleg" Richter squeegee paintings http://www.ericdoeringer.com/bootlegs2/BootPages/btrichtersqueegee.html - can send you pics of some others & could certainly make you a larger one if they look "real" enough for you.
Saltz's call for a Richter replica prompted a lengthy discussion, some of which centers on how daring and darling Saltz is, as well as debating the ethics and implications of a powerful critic soliciting a faux-ist work. One FB friend commented in the thread
it is strange because the desperation is so raw with some artists, it is painful and that is why I wonder why you would wander into this territory. Being a public figure, even though you are not super rich, still is very loaded.
Very loaded, indeed.