Art Critic Jerry Saltz Keynote speaker at 2013 Greenfield Prize Dinner

dish-111011-jerry-sq The Hermitage Artist Retreat, along with the Greenfield Foundation, is very pleased to announce that Jerry Saltz, senior art critic and columnist for New York Magazine, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Greenfield Prize Award Dinner being held on Sunday, April 21, 2013 in Sarasota, FL. Mr. Saltz joins a list of impressive speakers that have appeared at the dinner, including Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang, Public Theatre Artistic Director Osker Eustis, renowned American Painter James Rosenquist, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Conductor and Music Director for Aspen Music Festival and School Robert Spano. The prestigious $30,000 Prize rotates among three arts disciplines: theater, music and visual art. The 2013 Greenfield Prize will be presented in visual art to an American painter. Past winners were Playwright Craig Lucas, Composer Eve Beglarian, Visual Artist Sanford Biggers, Playwright John Guare, and Composer and Jazz Pianist Vijay Iyer.

“From the start, we have tried to have the keynote speaker of this prestigious award dinner, be of the same impressive caliber as the prize winner,” explained Bruce E. Rodgers, executive director of the Hermitage Artist Retreat. “In only five short years, we have been able to attract some of the most accomplished experts in the fields we are honoring. Next year will be no exception. Not only is Jerry Saltz a renowned critic of contemporary art, he’s an entertaining and very knowledgeable speaker. Having him among the weekend’s participating VIPs is very exciting.”

Jerry Saltz has been senior art critic and a columnist for New York Magazine since 2006. Before that, Saltz was senior art critic for The Village Voice newspaper. His criticisms have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times and featured in two books, Seeing Out Loud and Seeing Out Louder. Saltz was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial and has served as a visiting critic to many schools and universities including The School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Yale University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Studio Residency Program.

The Greenfield Prize was established in 2008. The award includes a $30,000 cash prize as a commission to create a new work of art of the artist’s choosing. The art is to be created within two years. Time and space to create at the Hermitage Artist Retreat is also included. Upon completion, the new work is presented by a professional arts organization, during the Greenfield Prize Weekend. As part of this tradition, a staged reading of a new play by John Guare, the 2011 Greenfield Prize winner, will be presented on April 18 and 19, 2013 by Asolo Rep actors in the Historic Asolo Theater.

“With each new announcement, we get more and more excited about this very special weekend of arts activities,” continued Rodgers. “In April, we kick off with a new play by John Guare and continue with free community symposia centered this year around theater and visual art. These creative conversations will feature more national art figures who will share their thoughts on what’s happening in their global worlds of art and artistry. The grand finale, of course, is the dinner and the presentation of the Prize to this year’s winner.”

For more information on the Greenfield Prize, visit the website at For more information on the Hermitage Artist Retreat, visit the website at

About the Greenfield Prize

The Greenfield Prize was established in 2009 by longtime Sarasota residents Bob and Louise Greenfield through the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation. The prize is a means by which a groundbreaking, enduring work of art will be created each year at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. The Prize consists of a $30,000 commission of an original work of art, a six-week residency at the Hermitage, and a partnership with a professional arts organization to develop the work and assistance in moving the work forward into the American arts world. A distinguished seven-person panel consisting of some of the most highly respected authorities in American art select each Greenfield Prize recipient. Three voting members on each jury are joined by a producing partner representative, Joni Greenfield of the Greenfield Foundation, Hermitage Greenfield Prize Director Patricia Caswell and Hermitage Executive Director Bruce Rodgers who facilitates.

About the Hermitage Artist Retreat

The Hermitage is a not-for-profit artist retreat located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood, FL. It brings accomplished painters, sculptors, writers, playwrights, poets, composers and other artists from all over the world for extended stays on its 8.5-acre campus. Each artist is asked to contribute two services to the community during their stay. So far, Hermitage artists have touched over 8,000 Gulf Coast community children and adults with their unique and inspiring programs. For more information about the Hermitage Artist Retreat, visit the website at or call 941-475-2098.

“Art is for Anyone. It Just isn’t for Everyone.” by Danny Olda

When virtually every image encountered is escorted by a ‘like’ button – when each parcel of information parsed demands an immediate impression and invites instant judgement, it bears repeating a principle: art is not a democracy. To be fair, more than mouse-click-populism brought me to revisit Richard Serra’s famous statement.

by Danny Olda

When virtually every image encountered is escorted by a ‘like’ button – when each parcel of information parsed demands an immediate impression and invites instant judgement, it bears repeating a principle: art is not a democracy.

To be fair, more than mouse-click-populism brought me to revisit Richard Serra’s famous statement. (I last read the quote here, on SVA, but more about that later) My ire was resurrected by a recent GQ article on the apotheosis of artistic populism itself, Artprize.

Artprize is an enormous art fair and contest held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There are two aspects of the contest, though, that make Artprize particularly unique: the obscenely huge top prize of $200,000; and the method of choosing the winner by public vote. It’s also these two distinguishing characteristics that illicit said ire.

I suspect the huge purse to be won is the reason the contest clings to any sort of relevance. Countless artists, including a number of the trendy and critically acclaimed, can hardly resist what would amount for many to six or seven years of income (or for Mitt Romney, a long weekend). This, in turn, impels many critics to be reluctant in dismissing the contest entirely. (As an aside, I’ll take this opportunity to serve ye notice, Artprize: You are hereby dismissed! By me, that is, for what little it’s worth).

Before going any further I should say that there isn’t anything wrong with popular opinion or even popular voting. The method used at Artprize, though, only compounds an already under-curated mess.

Despite how it may be portrayed, the popular vote doesn’t necessarily determine the best art. The most that can be said with certainty is that a public vote determines the art that garnered the most votes. Thus, artists are not encouraged to make the best art, but rather to make art that would attract the most votes. While good art and popular art are not mutually exclusive, the difference between the two is hardly trivial.

Artprize is only an example. The decline of a critical reading of art in favor of a populous one is a trend that is increasingly finding its expression on the internet. Consider, another example – Artist a Day.

Artist a Day is a website which presents a few examples of an artist’s work which is subsequently rated by the site’s visitors on a 1 to 5 scale. Granted, some very good artists, galleries, and curators are often involved with the site. Artist a Day employs considerable more curation than Artprize. However, the site encourages a similar type of interaction with the artwork from its visitors. By the nature of its design), visitors can only view the artwork via computer screen and most mete out judgement after only a few seconds of viewing. Naturally, this impels visitors to become reactionary critics – an oxymoron. In turn, the “top rated artists” are those which have an instant appeal or shock value (and little else).

The gap between populist and critical appeal can even be seen locally. As I mentioned earlier, I last read the aforementioned Richard Serra quote last week in an article featured in Sarasota Visual Art regarding a recent local public art controversy. The post highlighted some of the nation’s best public works of art and the popular rancor each encountered early on. A much more subtle example is the recent Best of the Bay awards given by Creative Loafing. Many of the categories existed as both “Critics’ Picks” and “Reader’ Picks” and predictably the difference between the two (at least in the arts) was marked.

This isn’t to say that popular opinion should somehow be ignored or even minimized. Consider artists such as Cindy Sherman or Marina Abramovic. In the case of these artists, popular opinion coincides with critical opinion. Indeed, each of us is entitled to a personal taste. However, the grand mean of collective personal taste should not be the dominant voice in the national art conversation.

The examples of Artprize and Artist a Day illustrate that mass opinion has a bent toward degrading into the lowest common denominator and a considerable segment of the art world is happy to cater to this. In contrast, great art doesn’t pander to any opinion, not even a critical one.

While art plays a beneficial role in culture, it isn’t necessarily a pleasant one. Like many of the most important things in life, the best art should be painful but rewarding. We should be routinely challenged, questioned, and provoked by art as should art by us, the viewer. It’s a cantankerous relationship, sure, but a very productive one.

I realize saying “art is not a democracy” can come off as needlessly incendiary. The reticence to call anything at once undemocratic and good is understandable. At least here in the U.S., the anathema to democracy is generally any and all evil. However, Serra wasn’t saying that art is undemocratic. Perhaps, art critic Jerry Saltz articulated the thought more eloquently: “Art is for anyone. It just isn’t for everyone”.

Further, when it does operate democratically, it doesn’t resemble the dream of the founding father’s as much as America’s Got Talent. It becomes something of a game show – Art critiques become reductionist and reactionary; artists, in turn, coddle this way of looking at art with facile work that has little new to say.

Art is profoundly important and deserves at least a bit more class and consideration than American Idol. Art deserves to be looked at slowly, thought about carefully, disagreed with vehemently, argued about articulately, and loved passionately – much more than a 1 to 5 vote.

Danny Olda is a Tampa based artist and publisher of
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