Peter Schjeldahl (1942–2022) – Artforum International

Peter Schjeldahl, the American art critic whose scintillating and eloquent reviews have graced the pages of New Yorker for decades and Voice of the village before that, died this afternoon of lung cancer at his home in Bovina, New York, at the age of eighty. Schjeldahl’s thorough assessments of the work of contemporary, modern, and ancient artists combined, as the art historian Robert Storr once wrote, “the feverish curiosity of Baudelaire and the shameless omnivore of Whitman.” Schjeldahl almost always rooted his writing in his own first-person experience, and although his taste earned him his own criticisms, he remained a passionate advocate for the virtues of beauty, pleasure, and passion itself in art and art criticism. “It’s not quite that in judging art I prefer to err on the side of generosity. I’d rather not be wrong.” he wrote in an essay Posted in art forumsummer 1994 issue. “But I am frightened by the self-indulgent or bitter hubris of critics who make an enemy of enthusiasm. I wonder what their appetite or personal use for art is, if any. »

Schjeldahl was born in 1942 in Fargo, North Dakota, and as a child moved with his family to various small towns in North Dakota and Minnesota. Drawn to poetry from an early age, he also enjoyed baseball and was a sports editor for his high school newspaper before enrolling at Carleton College. He dropped out after two years, taking a job across the country at the Jersey Newspaper, in Jersey City, New Jersey, immersing himself in his off hours in the downtown poetic scene. After a brief return to Carleton, he gave up again and moved to Paris, where he developed a passion for art but found the missing scene there. “It occurred to me that I was in the wrong city,” he said. Interviewby Christopher Bollen in 2014. “Lads in the Midwest at that time, we thought Paris was where it was, but our information was 25 years out of date. I remember seeing an exhibition in Paris at the Sonnabend gallery of Andy Warhol’s flower paintings and thinking, “Bad town!” Returning to New York a year later, he found a job at art news solely on the strength of his enthusiasm. Other concerts followed, including a writing for the New York Times under culture editor Seymour Peck, whom he counted as a mentor.

During the 1970s, Schjeldahl viewed his artistic writing as secondary to his career as a poet, as a way to support it. He published several volumes of poetry but eventually, he told Bollen, “I started to feel like my art criticism was second rate. I wanted to see how well I could do it and let the poems take care of themselves. Over the next twenty years his reviews appeared regularly in Art in America, art forumnow gone 7 daysand the Voice of the village, among other publications. In 1998, he became an art critic for the New Yorkerwhere his reviews have appeared until weeks before his death.

In a profession known for his academic and measured style, Schjeldahl stood out for his fluent prose that could fuse written pyrotechnics with outspokenness, his insight, and his willingness to both effusively praise and eviscerate the work. which seemed to him worthy of one or the other reaction. Most evident was an obvious love for art that radiated from every essay and informed even the most vitriolic criticism. “It’s a great privilege to be an artist” he said art forumby Deborah Salomon in 2008. “You discover the outer limits of your talent and your freedom. You get to see the world from a high place. If you fail and end up with a square job in Dubuque, you will already have a wealth of knowledge and experience that 99.9% of humanity can only dream of,” he concluded. “Do not complain.”


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