Skip to Content
Morning Spew

Jerry Saltz’s New Diet

You can survive on chicken and spinach and these links.

Saltz at T.J. Byrnes. (Hell Gate)

On Thursday night, the art critic Dean Kissick held his monthly "Seaport Talks" series at the back of Financial District Irish pub T.J. Byrnes. This month, Kissick had his highest-profile guest yet: New York Magazine's senior art critic Jerry Saltz. It seemed like it would be quite the contrast. Kissick is a sleek cool kid who you might know from Blaketheman1000's Dimes Square anthem "Dean Kissick" ("Dean Kissick. I pull up to the club with my girl and five of her friends / I'm not a critic. But if I was, I would say all of them are tens").

Jerry Saltz, on the other hand, despite the Pullitzer, has this "art world everyman" brand. He's 72, and his signature move is buying multiple cups of deli coffee, refrigerating them and pouring them—mixed with decaf—into a 7-Eleven Double Gulp cup that he washes and reuses. "I don't know how to make coffee," Saltz reiterated at T.J. Byrnes. "I've tried. I cannot master it. I've really tried." After his coffee routine went viral in 2020, he wrote an essay about his routine, and let everyone know he eats almost the same meal everyday: premade chicken paillard with various vegetables every night, and an egg on toast for breakfast. But last night Saltz revealed that since writing that article, his diet has become even more spartan. 

"You're gonna hate me for this, but I love it," Saltz began. "I go once a week to my Gristedes, and I buy about 15 already-made balsamic chicken breasts. And I get about ten bags of spinach. Then I put them on a plate and eat one for breakfast, and one for dinner."

Kissick mostly just sat there and quirked his eyebrows or smirked, and read Saltz quotes from his books in Kissick's little accent, Saltz's criticism of the art world from two decades ago: "Too many critics act like cheerleaders," Saltz wrote, "reporters or hip metaphysicians. Amid art fair frenzy, auction madness, money lust and market hype; between galleries turning into selling machines, gossip passing as criticism and art becoming a good job; the system, while efficient, feels faulty, even false." The younger people in the crowd wanted to know: has anything changed? Does anything ever change? 

Saltz seemed to think things had changed, that everything is possible now and we live in an auspicious time. His advice to artists was, "Hang out. Try to act friendly. To get successful, you only have to pull the wool over a very few people's eyes." He said artists only needed to trick one art dealer into liking their work, four or five collectors ("They don't have to be millionaires, because your work is never going to be worth a million bucks"), and one critic. "You have to fuck 'em," he… joked? But he caveated: "Don't try to sleep with me, I'm not doing it. Don't flirt with me."

Isabelle Brourman (whose courtroom sketch illustrated Hell Gate's coverage of Donald Trump's first arraignment) asked Saltz about what he learned from his time as a truck driver before his art criticism career took off in his 40s. After singing Brourman's praises, calling her a great artist, saying she took a "dead art form" and breathed new life into it, Saltz replied that he learned nothing from trucking, that it was a waste of time that he only did because he loved the art world and couldn't find a way into it. More and more questions were asked, and Saltz said he could do this all night, admitting his tendency to ramble. "One thing I've noticed about myself is that I do go on."

"You can all leave if you want," Saltz said. "I won't ruin your careers, I promise." 

You can also… read these links!

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Give us your email address to keep reading two more articles for free

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

See all posts