Remembering Irving Sandler (1925-2018)

A rapt crowd for Irving Sandler in conversation with Phong Bui at CIMA, November 21, 2017.

This past weekend we lost Irving Sandler, legendary art critic, founder of Artists Space, and vital, charming chronicler of the New York art world. Read the obituary by William Grimes in The New York Times. Robert Storr’s tribute, published in The Art Newspaper, aptly concludes:

“The bemused avuncular optimism and enthusiasm that gained Sandler access to history-in-the-making never deserted him. After listening to a good argument or seeing a dozen or more shows over a two-day weekend he would, while in his 80s when many others of his generation and far younger had soured on the vanity and cupidity of the increasingly hyped increasingly commercial ‘post-modern’ scene, he would spontaneously declare ‘I love my art world.’ Much of it loved him back. Certainly all of it owed him a debt.”

Frank O’Hara in a 1959 poem called him “the balayeur des artistes,” the sweeper-up after artists—which became the title of the first volume of Sandler’s memoirs, an intimate first-hand account of his friendships with the major figures of what became known as the New York School.

On November 21, 2017, as part of CIMA’s Alberto Savinio season, we were privileged to host Sandler in conversation with Phong Bui, artist and publisher of the Brooklyn Rail. The two discussed Sandler’s perspectives on the New York art world; the latest volume of his memoirs, Swept Up By Art: An Art Critic in the Post-Avant-Garde Era, published in 2016 by Rail Editions; and his experiences with his mentor, the art historian Robert Goldwater—husband of Louise Bourgeois, whose work is on view in dialogue with Savinio.

RIP, dear Irving.