Roberta Smith To Step Down As Senior NY Times Art Critic

Roberta Smith Via Twitter

Roberta Smith, one of our generation’s most distinguished art critics, is to retire from her post as co-chief at the NY Times. She is known for her insightful commentary and deep understanding of contemporary art. Born on 15 October 1947 in New York City, Smith developed a passion for art from a young age.

She attended Grinnell College in Iowa, where she studied literature and art history, laying the foundation for her future career as critic. Smith’s journey into art criticism began in the early 1970s when she joined the editorial staff of Artforum, a prestigious art magazine known for its critical discourse and scholarly articles. During her time at Artforum, Smith honed her writing skills and delved into the complexities of contemporary art, establishing herself as a discerning voice in the art world.

In 1981, Smith joined The Village Voice, where she served as the publication’s art critic for over two decades. Her tenure at The Village Voice solidified her reputation as fearless and unafraid to challenge established norms and push the boundaries of art criticism. Smith’s reviews were characterised by their sharp wit, keen observations, and unwavering commitment to artistic integrity.

In 1991, Smith joined The New York Times as a full-time art critic, a position that would elevate her status as one of the most influential voices in contemporary art criticism. Over the years, Smith has written thousands of reviews and articles covering various art exhibitions, from major retrospectives at well-known museums to emerging artists’ shows in alternative spaces.

Smith’s writing is characterised by its depth, clarity, and accessibility, making complex art concepts and movements understandable to a broad audience. Her reviews are renowned for their incisive analysis, thoughtful reflections, and fearless engagement with contemporary art trends.

Throughout her career, Smith has received numerous accolades for her contributions to art criticism, including awards from the College Art Association and the International Association of Art Critics. She has also served on various advisory boards and panels, further cementing her influence within the art community.
Beyond her role as a critic, Smith is also a passionate advocate for the arts, championing emerging artists, promoting diversity and inclusion in the art world, and advocating for the importance of arts education in schools and communities.

In an ever-evolving art landscape, Roberta Smith remains a steadfast voice, guiding audiences through the complexities and nuances of contemporary art with insight, passion, and unwavering dedication. Her contributions to art criticism have left an indelible mark on the art world, shaping discourse, sparking dialogue, and inspiring generations of artists, critics, and enthusiasts alike.

Smith is married to the Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz, another prominent figure in the art world. Saltz is known for his work at New York Magazine and his insightful commentary on contemporary art. The couple’s passion for art has undoubtedly influenced their careers and contributed to their deep understanding and appreciation of the art world.

Roberta Smith announced her stepdown on social media:

“I would like to share the generous in-house memo that the New York Times posted this morning announcing that I’m moving on from my staff position there. Also to underscore that I won’t be going far, so please don’t start missing me yet. I’ll still contribute short reviews to the Times every couple of months and, if further ideas occur, can also write about those. In my coals-to-Newcastle life, I will have more time to pursue my number one interest, which is going to galleries and museums, looking at stuff. But this will be the first time since 1972 – with a few breaks — that I won’t have regular writing commitments, which I can barely comprehend. I think I can say that art has kept me young – or something close. I look forward to seeing if live music, dance and theater can do the same. We who have art in our lives in any form are incredibly lucky. But the real luck may be having people who love and obsess about art so completely in our lives. Starting with the kids who sit behind the reception desks at galleries and the press people at museums, there are so many people to thank: dealers, fellow critics, curators and of course artists. And that is only the start. Thank you all for reading me, and above all, for giving me so much to write about. Thank you also, to the New York Times, to the many editors, copy editors, photo editors and fellow critics who have been, of course, indispensable. I know I haven’t been the easiest writer the paper has ever seen and for that I apologise. The Times has been the perfect balance to the art world. I love you both. Some time I should post my acknowledgements here, name by name, to give some measure of my gratitude, and my worlds. To paraphrase Jerry, I couldn’t have written if writing had been without you. See you at the galleries.”

Photo Credit: Roberta Smith Via X

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