“Anybody can be a world famous artist, instantly, if enough important people think they are,” Peter Saul says in a morning conversation, days after he returned from Miami Art Week in early December. Ironically, or perhaps ideally, the 87-year old painter had just been in South Florida for a public conversation with Beeple, and even if you think the artist most famously associated with NFTs speaking with one of the great American political painters of his generation doesn’t make sense, it’s 2021 and what we perceive as normalcy was thrown out the window in March 2020. Ironically, the last social thing I did before the pandemic was visit Saul’s Crime and Punishment retrospective at the New Museum in NYC in early March 2020, so to speak with him today, one of the most accomplished painters of his era who has seen a resurgence of appreciation in his work in the last decade, felt like a bookend to a masterfully complex time.
The occasion that Saul was speaking with Juxtapoz was his honoring at the New York Academy of Art’s Artists for Artists gala on December 14th, not only for his support of the school but for his massively influential voice and bodies of work on the current young generation of figurative painters that we have seen emerge so strongly in recent years. One of those painters is NYAA alum, Anna Park, herself a critically acclaimed painter who at the time of our interview had just been represented by international powerhouse Blum & Poe gallery. A torch has been passed in many ways, but just as important, Saul continues to immerse himself in contemporary figurative painting, and as Park expands on the legacy of past generations, she herself has become a voice for students at the school.