PRINT October 2016


Lisa Liebmann

Lisa Liebmann, October 8, 1982. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

LISA LIEBMANN was a passionate explainer. She wrote fine-textured prose that detailed the interplay of the subtle, shifting, often evanescent sensations connected with the act of looking—and that expressed her complex, animated, and mostly approving relationship to art and to the scene. Her writing was imaginative; she could take vast interpretive leaps without bothering to look over her shoulder. She was the embodiment of an engaged critic—a participant, in many ways the ideal audience member. Lisa let the art, whatever it was—painting, opera, ballet, literature—flow through her. She understood that art is made by artists and as a result there is nothing to be afraid of.

As a person, Lisa was warm and humorous—gemütlich—with a wonderfully insistent, even agitated manner of speaking. She had lovely, alert eyes and an intelligent mouth. She dressed with eccentric flair and went about like a true cosmopolitan. Her understanding of the world was large. Lisa’s intellectual and emotional life seemed rooted in another time, as if she had studied the great coffeehouse wits of the past century without exactly becoming one herself. It was merely part of her preparation, like speaking perfect French—something to know and then to not have to think about again.

Lisa was a humanist; she understood that the seemingly disparate, even antagonistic factions and biases in the art world are actually interconnected. She grasped instinctively the way in which a sensibility is often made up of different impulses and influences, not all of them obvious or even visible, and she was comfortable with the idea that certain things in art, certain qualities, are accessible only through intuition. She believed that art has dignity, and her relationship to art was dignified.

She was a great friend and I loved her. Her departure leaves a tremendous void.

David Salle is a New York–based artist.