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a bald man wearing thin black framed glasses, a blue button down shirt under a black blazer. His book cover is on the right side of his portrait.


All passes have been distributed for this event; however, there is always someone who doesn’t show up. If you’re unable to claim an advance pass, our walk-up line opens at 5:30pm in the Lobby. We’ll do our best to welcome everyone.

Questions? Email Hirshhornexperience@si.edu
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The art world’s most vocal critic and champion returns to DC to discuss his latest book, Art Is Life, which looks at art as a reflection of our times.

A former truck driver and self-described “failed artist” turned Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic and New York Times bestselling author, Jerry Saltz has become one of the art world’s most accessible and instructive voices. Since the 1990s, he has been an indispensable cultural voice: witty and provocative, he has attracted contemporary readers to fine art in a way few others have. An early champion of forgotten and overlooked women artists, Saltz has celebrated the pioneering work of African American, indigenous, LGBTQ+, and other long-marginalized creators. He has also become beloved online, amassing more than a million dedicated followers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Saltz has reported everything from the cultural reset of 9/11 to the rolling social crises of today. In his most recent book, Art Is Life: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night, he looks at work made during these times and how the visions of artists both documented and challenged culture.

Art Is Life: Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night will be available for purchase from the Hirshhorn Museum Store. Saltz will be available to sign copies of the book after the program.



Jerry Saltz is the senior art critic at New York magazine and its entertainment site Vulture. He is the winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism and a 2019 National Magazine Award. Before joining New York in 2007, Saltz had been art critic for The Village Voice since 1998 and was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize during his tenure there. A frequent guest lecturer, he has spoken at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum, and many others, and has appeared at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere.



In Art Is Life, Jerry Saltz draws on two decades of work to offer a real-time survey of contemporary art as a barometer of our times. Chronicling a period punctuated by dramatic turning points—from the cultural reset of 9/11 to the rolling social crises of today—Saltz traces how visionary artists have both documented and challenged the culture. Art Is Life offers Saltz’s eye-opening appraisals of trailblazers like Kara Walker, David Wojnarowicz, Hilma af Klint, and Jasper Johns; provocateurs like Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Marina Abramović; and visionaries like Jackson Pollock, Bill Traylor, and Willem de Kooning. Saltz celebrates landmarks like the Obama portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, writes searchingly about disturbing moments such as the Ankara gallery assassination, and offers surprising takes on figures from Thomas Kinkade to Kim Kardashian. And he shares stories of his own haunted childhood, his time as a “failed artist,” and his epiphanies upon beholding work by Botticelli, Delacroix, and the cave painters of Niaux.

With his signature blend of candor and conviction, Jerry Saltz argues in Art Is Life for the importance of the fearless artist—reminding us that art is a kind of channeled voice of human experience, a necessary window onto our times. The result is an openhearted and irresistibly readable appraisal by one of our most important cultural observers.  Find out more here.


A video recording will be available online after the program.


If you would like to request access services or accommodations that can make your experience more inclusive, please contact hirshhornexperience@si.edu. 1-2 week’s advance notice is recommended but not required.


Image Credit: Portrait of the artist. Photo by Celeste Sloman


June 22, 2023
6:30 pm–7:30 pm
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Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum, Independence Ave SW & 7th St SW
Washington, DC 20560 United States
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