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Rob Pruitt, his panda and Jerry Saltz, 2012
Rob Pruitt, his panda and Jerry Saltz, 2012; and Rob Pruitt's autograph on New York magazine's Nicki Minaj cover, 2012; both photos courtesy New York magazine

Rob Pruitt


by Jerry Saltz

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This past Saturday, I walked into Karma Book on New York's Downing Street to find neo-pop artist Rob Pruitt, the one who made that wonderful shiny statue of Andy Warhol now in Union Square, sitting completely naked except for a small panda in his lap. He was signing his book Pop Touched Me -- or anything else you might bring in.

I had New York magazine's Nicki Minaj cover from a few weeks back, and he quickly panda-ized her -- or maybe Mickey Moused her. I loved Pruitt's nerve to do this -- I mean, to sit naked. So openly and guilelessly. I've always thought art is a way for artists to dance naked in public. Pruitt literalizes this, keeping it poetic and pathos-filled in the process: being the butt of jokes that day, from "Is that a Panda in your pocket?" to "Your Panda has shrinkage," while smiling blithely, signing away all day. Ah, the art world.

JERRY SALTZ is art critic for New York magazine, where this essay first appeared. He can be reached at