Jerry Saltz and Kehinde Wiley Explain How Art Invents New Ways of Seeing

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Ahead of the Whitney Biennial next spring, the show’s lead sponsor, Tiffany & Co., is launching a five-part video series titled New Ways of Seeing, featuring conversations with critics and curators of contemporary art. New York Magazine’s senior art critic Jerry Saltz wrote and stars in episode one, which premieres here on the Cut.

New Ways of Seeing is inspired by the 1972 BBC series and book Ways of Seeing, which studied and questioned hidden meanings within images. It led to feminist readings of pop culture — particularly, depictions of women in ads and oil paintings — and helped pioneer current understandings of art history and visual culture. For this new take on the series, Tiffany asked episode hosts to examine and challenge art-related topics. Saltz titled his film “Art Contains Multitudes” and invited three artists — portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, Shantell Martin, and Oliver Jeffers — to discuss how art invented a new way of seeing the world.

“Art is about changing what we see in our everyday lives and representing it in such a way that it gives us hope,” says Wiley. “Artists of color, gender, sexualities — we’re creating a revolution now.”

For Martin, whom Saltz calls a “modern-day cave painter,” that means letting her pens dictate the lines, designs, and words she draws on walls and other surfaces. For Jeffers, it’s destroying (and re-creating) his own paintings.

Watch Saltz trace these themes from cave paintings to Picasso and Duchamp in the video above. “Art contains multitudes,” he says, “like us.” The remaining four New Ways of Seeing episodes will premiere monthly.