In Frank O’Hara’s poem of 1964, ‘Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and John-Paul’, the American art critic Irving Sandler is humorously characterised as ‘the balayeur des artistes’, or sweeper-up after artists – a moniker Sandler liked so much it became the title of his candid memoir, published in 2003. The name refers to at least two details of Sandler’s life: his early apprenticeship with the Tanager Gallery, an important artists’ co-operative where he tidied and locked up at the end of the day (he would become manager in 1956); and his talent for directing personal relationships and interactions with artists into lively criticism.
Sandler died on 2 June in Manhattan at the age of 92. As a champion of post-war American art, he had a long and varied career. Sandler’s criticism first addressed gestural abstraction and sculpture at mid-century: both The Triumph of American Painting (1970) – the somewhat