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Work of Art


by Jerry Saltz
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Among the strange stuff that’s spun from my stint as a judge on a reality-TV show about art, the item that appeared in a recent New York Post may have topped it all. The Sucklord, the show’s Star Wars-obsessed maker of mutant miniature figures who was voted off several weeks ago, has made what he calls "a glow-in-the-dark toy of a bald, Jewish art critic." Wow! My own Super Jew Guru action figure!

As soon as this was announced, people on my Facebook page started writing about either making this figure do naughty things or the anti-Semitism of Sucklord’s description. But I often harp about the use of lenses like "black woman artist" and "gay Hispanic artist" employed by the art world while no one talks about roly-poly balding Jewish art critics. Sucklord is no anti-Semite. (And anyway, the great thing about anti-Semites is that they need Jews more than Jews need them. Sucklord is doing just fine without me.)

As for the figure itself: as soon as she saw it, my wife said, "Oh my God! They turned you into a Paul Shaffer doll!" He did give me more hair than Paul has, although the ‘do looks slightly tonsured, like a monk’s. My glasses are a little bit Bono, but my chest is very manly-man. I may be imagining this, but I am apparently very well hung, or my pants have a low crotch. Such are the deficiencies, or joys, of cast plastic.

I have to say that I’m totally unarmed, and unsure how I can fulfill the package description of me as a "defender of taste and culture. A man who commands the power to save or destroy the aspirations and opportunities of any artist, anywhere." (Of course, my secret weapon is still the brain trust I’m married to.) But who’s complaining? This could extend my 15 minutes of reality-TV fame by about 20 seconds, especially as the package asserts that my figure shall "forever be known for his public rivalry with the SUPER SUCKLORD, a man universally recognized by History to be the single greatest artist who ever lived."

Either way, I feel sorry for kids out there who get cathected on the action figure of a super-Jew art critic, make this figure fly into museums, get medieval on shows, eat pizza alone between gallery visits in Chelsea and then possibly grow up to meet weekly deadlines that drive him or her batty. The figure does make me think Sucklord might want to create a whole Art-Critic Justice League. I imagine Theory Man, who arrives on the scene to squash any pleasure and only writes about art that relates to Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, Lawrence Weiner or appropriation. His cousins, Academic Man and Woman, will write reams in kryptonite-armored prose that no one in the solar system understands other than their own ilk, and Cynic Critic will crow that things were purer in the 1970s.

Happy Critic, meanwhile, will like everything he or she sees, and Local Critic will swoop in to state that anything from New York is bad. Twitter Critic and Blog Monster will work in tandem. Finally, there’s the self-appointed finger-wagging thought policeman of the art world, Savonarola Critic, whose energy is spent attacking the energies of others and insisting that his artistic and moral standards are vastly superior to everyone else. Mostly, I’m just happy Sucklord didn’t dress me as a clown -- although he does seem to have outfitted me, as the wardrobe department did, in man-Spanx.

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