Peter Schjeldahl, a longtime resident of St. Mark's Place and "a half-century-long prose stylist of New York City's art scene," died on Friday of lung cancer, his daughter Ada Calhoun announced. He was 80.
My father, Peter Schjeldahl, passed away today peacefully of lung cancer. He will be buried privately. In March there will be a memorial service honoring his life and work. My mother and I are grateful for all the messages and will be in touch when we can. pic.twitter.com/RVyrIkblWs— Ada Calhoun (@adacalhoun) October 21, 2022
Peter was a man of well-developed opinions, on art and much else. He was someone who, after being lost for a time, knew some things about survival. We met more than twenty years ago. I was looking to hire a full-time art critic. I’d read him for years in the Village Voice. And a voice is what he always had: distinct, clear, funny. A poet’s voice — epigrammatic, nothing wasted.
We got together at the office on a Saturday in late summer. Someone had shut off the building’s air-conditioning. Peter was pale, rivulets of sweat running down his face. I asked about an empty interval of time on his résumé. "Well, I was a falling-down drunk back then. Then I fixed that." He was harder on himself than he would be on any artist.Don’t misunderstand: in the many years of his writing for The New Yorker, Peter was perfectly willing to give a bad show a bad review, and there were some artists he was just never going to love — Turner and Bacon among them — but he was openhearted, he knew how to praise critically, and, to the end, he was receptive to new things, new artists. ... He took his work seriously — despite the cascades of self-deprecation, there were times when I think he knew how good he was — but he was never self-serious. He once won a grant to write a memoir. He used the money to buy a tractor.
When Peter got the news of his cancer — a cancer that he and his doctors kept at bay for longer than anyone imagined possible — Ada asked him if he wanted to revisit Rome or Paris. "Nah," he said. "Maybe a ballgame." And Ada arranged it, Peter wrote, "with family and friends: Mets versus Braves, at Citi Field. Glorious. Grandson Oliver caught a T-shirt from the mid-game T-shirt cannon. Odds of that: several thousand to one."