NEW YORK (AP) — John Perreault, a poet, artist, critic and curator who was a blunt and influential writer for The Village Voice and was the subject of a nude painting by Alice Neel included in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, has died. He was 78.
Perreault died Sunday at the NYU Langone Medical Center due to complications from gastrointestinal surgery, according to his husband, Jeff Weinstein.
Perreault was the Voice's art critic from 1966-74, a peak era in the downtown New York scene, and became close to Andy Warhol, Robert Smithson and other leading artists of the time. According to Weinstein, Warhol and Perreault would talk by phone "night after night after night."
"They were art world gossips," Weinstein said.
One of the first openly gay art reviewers and an emphatic champion of the avant-garde, Perreault was later the senior critic for Soho News and served as curator for several galleries, including the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse and the American Craft Museum in Manhattan.
A native of Manhattan who grew up in New Jersey, Perreault studied poetry at the New School for Social Research and was encouraged by poet John Ashbery to contribute criticism to ARTnews as a way of supporting his writing. Ashbery also provided the introduction for Perreault's poetry collection "Camouflage."
Patrons of the Whitney would know his name, bearded face and lean, angular body from the 1972 Neel oil portrait "John Perreault."
"I went up to sit for her 17 times. She labored over it," Perreault later told New York magazine. "The routine was I would come there at around noon and she would give me little bits of cheese and crackers, because she liked the idea of feeding a starving poet."
Perreault's own art will be included next month in the exhibition "Museum of Stones" at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City.