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(Photo: Gabriela Maj/Getty Images)

The rumors are not true. Jerry Saltz is neither leaving New York magazine nor is he shutting down Saltz Nation on his infamous Facebook page.

This was his notice on the NY Mag site:

Jerry Saltz Responds to Rumors of His Departure

Yes, the rumors are true, and I’m leaving New York Magazine. The editors made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: They gave me $106 million in severance because they couldn’t get me the 1932 Picasso, and they threw in the $28 million Jasper Johns “Flag,” and an apartment in the East 80s overlooking the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Plus cashews for life. (I love cashews.)

But seriously. In response to the funny widespread “news” that I’m quitting New York and scrapping my Facebook page: Neither is true, and that “farewell” post was not written by me. If I leave the magazine, I’m going out feetfirst (because I’m dead) or headfirst (because they’re throwing me out). They had me at, “We have cashew Fridays,” and now I’m addicted to getting e-mails from editors proposing “just one more revise” of my column, or blog entries that they want in 45 minutes, and constantly going to galleries out of sheer deadline pressure. And anyway, those limited individuals who structure their inner lives around hating my work, both on New York’s online-comment threads and in the blogosphere at-large, all seem to need me more than I need them. I may be keeping them off the streets, which might be viewed as a public service.

As for scrapping my Facebook page, alas: My wife says this pastime keeps me out of her hair and has, relatively speaking, a “calming effect” on me. It’s staying around, too.

It’s a good thing since Jerry is one of the few people I follow who actually makes the art world fun (and funny.) And if there was ever need for some levity, it is now.

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I have a lot of artist friends who are dedicated, hardworking and optimistic about their work. But when it comes to the vicissitudes of the larger world, they are ass-dragging pessimists. And it is understandable, given an art world that lavishly (and to a certain extent, randomly) rewards a few practitioners but leaves the majority to survive on crumbs. Being an artist is not a path for anyone who can possibly do anything else with their life. You only do this because you can’t not.

So it was with a wry nod of consent that I read the latest piece by the very smart Jerry Saltz in New York Magazine about the Frieze Fair in London and the collapse of the recently too-hot-to-hold art buyers’ market. Here’s a meaningful extract from that article. (BTW, you can read the full article on Slow Painting.)

If the art economy is as bad as it looks—if worse comes to worst—40 to 50 New York galleries will close. Around the same number of European galleries will, too. An art magazine will cease publishing. A major fair will call it quits—possibly the Armory Show, because so many dealers hate the conditions on the piers, or maybe Art Basel Miami Beach, because although it’s fun, it’s also ridiculous. Museums will cancel shows because they can’t raise funds. Art advisers will be out of work. Alternative spaces will become more important for shaping the discourse, although they’ll have a hard time making ends meet.

As for artists, too many have been getting away with murder, making questionable or derivative work and selling it for inflated prices. They will either lower their prices or stop selling. Many younger artists who made a killing will be forgotten quickly. Others will be seen mainly as relics of a time when marketability equaled likability. Many of the hot Chinese artists, most of whom are only nth-generation photo-realists, will fall by the wayside, having stuck collectors with a lot of junk.

Much good art got made while money ruled; I like a lot of it, and hardship and poverty aren’t virtues. The good news is that, since almost no one will be selling art, artists—especially emerging ones—won’t have to think about turning out a consistent style or creating a brand. They’ll be able to experiment as much as they want.

But my Schadenfreude side wishes a pox on the auction houses, those shrines to the disconnect between the inner life of art and the outer life of commerce. If they don’t go belly up or return to dealing mainly with dead artists, they need to stop pretending that they have any interest in art beyond the financial. Additionally, I hope many of the speculators who never really cared about art will go away. Either way, money will no longer be the measure of success. It hasn’t made art better. It made some artists—notably Hirst, Murakami, Prince, and maybe Piotr Ukla´nski—shallower.

Recessions are hard on people, but they are not hard on art. The forties, seventies, and the nineties, when money was scarce, were great periods, when the art world retracted but it was also reborn. New generations took the stage; new communities spawned energy; things opened up; deadwood washed away. With luck, New Museum curator Laura Hoptman’s wish will come true: “Art will flower and triumph not as a hobby, an investment, or a career, but as what it is and was—a life.”

I’m back from a weekend in New York. Within a 48 hour period I wept with grief as we gathered on a pier jutting out into the Hudson River to to pay our last respects to Morris, then wept with joy at the wedding of my life long friend Melissa who, as one speaker noted, “has never given up on love.” Both the finality of death and the optimism of a mid-life marriage have left me feeling the deep and sobering expanse of what life serves up to us. We are all being asked to learn how to hold extremes in our consciousness. On every level.

From the interior landscape to the larger terrain: Another domain where extremes are being challenged is in the high stakes battle over art pedagogy. Miami Beach real estate developer Craig Robins announced plans to start a high profile “graduate program” to help Bilbao-ize Miami Beach into a major art center and destination site. Clearly a savvy businessman and marketer, Robins is approaching the creation of this program, called Art + Research, with the endorsing imprimatur of leading art world luminaries. His project, whether timely and appropriate for this 21st century or a vapid smoke screen for yet another money making venture, is as sophisticated as a mutli-million dollar corporate branding campaign. Art education as big business. Is the next step an IPO?

Here’s an excerpt from an article about his proposed initiative in New York Magazine:

The University of Miami–operated venture already has an impressive roster of New Yorkers onboard. Founding faculty include artists Liam Gillick and Rirkrit Tiravanija, both of whom teach in Columbia’s M.F.A. program; Yale instructor Steven Henry Madoff; and White Columns gallery director Matthew Higgs (they will all squeeze Miami tutorials into their current gigs). Former Columbia art-school dean Bruce Ferguson consulted on it. And for added star power, sitting on the board of Robins’s nonprofit Anaphiel organization to guide the school are former Whitney director (and Robins’s cousin) David Ross, John Baldessari, and ex–Art Basel director Sam Keller. Robins will kick in $2 million to help fund Art + Research for its first four years, and the University of Miami has promised to help raise another $2 million.

Unlike at Columbia and Yale, there won’t be any formal M.F.A. degrees awarded to those who complete the two-year program, which will revolve around a topical theme that changes with each entering biannual class. Accordingly, don’t expect to see the “resident artists” hunker down in front of easels and live models. “Most art is conceptually based now. It’s art based on an idea,” says Madoff. “It didn’t turn out that the twentieth century’s most influential artist was Picasso. It turned out it was Duchamp … We don’t need to do foundation courses, how to draw, how to sculpt … You don’t need three credits for American Art History From 1945 to the Present.”

Such an approach, loosely akin to the Whitney’s Independent Study Program, has its detractors. “I like Steven very much, but I think he’s dead wrong,” says Robert Storr, dean of Yale’s School of Art. “The idea that somebody who has read all the critical literature on art can suddenly have an idea and make it is just nuts.” In fact, Storr thinks knowledge of technique is central to an artist’s effectiveness. “Yes, you should teach ideas. But you shouldn’t teach theory and then send people off to subcontract the work to somebody else. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in situations curatorially where somebody’s had a great idea and an absolutely lousy work comes out of it because they don’t know how to talk to the people who are the superior technicians in their field.”

The thing is, the University of Miami already has a conventional M.F.A. program, and many of its professors wonder why Robins doesn’t just support them. “To have $2 million given to this rich man’s fantasy camp is more than annoying; it’s a complete kick in the teeth to the art department,” says UM painting professor Darby Bannard. “We are hurting so bad over here for basic facilities. I spent two years just trying to get the floor in the wood shop fixed—it was so rotted out you could put your foot through it.” Bannard’s own pedagogical style eschews theoretical discussions. “It’s very simple,” he cracks. “I teach people to paint. Inspiration is fine, but if you don’t have the skills, it’s not going to go anywhere.”

Madoff groans out loud at that complaint. His role? “It’s not classes and it’s not teaching. It’s advising. The founding faculty will be hovering presences. We’re just going to give you a ton of information and allow you to live free in a place, have a free studio, and get to meet with other artists. Unless you’re a millionaire already, who wouldn’t want a two-year grant?” Indeed, Art + Research is so determined to be innovative that it’s amorphous. At a certain point, Robins waves off further questions on the details of its structure. “It’s not exactly clear how it’s all going to work,” he offers with a bright, knowing smile. “But everybody’s always happy to spend time in Miami.”

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