The Triumph of Death is just one of the artworks “knocking on the door” at the back of Saltz’s mind. Instead of looking towards contemporary art, he’s using this time to remember and reconsider past viewing experiences. As the physical art world shuts down, even the most extroverted of us must turn inward—and go online.
Saltz is well known for his controversial social media presence, so it’s no surprise that he’s also embraced the now-standard Zoom chat. He likened a recent video meeting with his editorial team to attending an art opening. “I loved hearing the group mind talking to each other and watching. I was so excited I couldn’t say anything,” he recalled. Old dogs, in the age of coronavirus, must learn new tricks.
Despite our newfangled means of connection, Saltz is aware of the challenges facing artists. When we make art now, we’re confined to smaller, busier, domestic spaces. Children may be at the table. Parents and grandparents may be chattering in the background as we try to complete creative work. But in Saltz’s estimation, “art was made to survive this catastrophe.”
Artists make art as a means of self-expression, a desire that certainly doesn’t end when external conditions change. The pressures of today are incubating inside people with stories to tell, whether they’re conscious of it or not.
For his part, Saltz looks back on his moment of glory in Toronto with pleasure. “If I succumb to the virus, I’ve had that book signing that I will never forget,” he said. “My letter to the world got delivered to a few people.”
Humans will find ways to write their own letters to the world, no matter their circumstances. “There’s no choice,” Saltz said. “If you have to make anything, you will make it. This is the time.”