Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Conflict of Interest for Times Art Critic?

We were fortunate enough to receive a glowing review in The New York Times for our last exhibition by Joe Fig. We felt the work deserved the review, but we feel that way about nearly every show. We were very appreciative of the interest and insight of the critic, whom I've known a number of years and always find charming and very smart and a man of integrity.

And yet it's terribly daunting to realize the power all the critics of The New York Times wield. The day the review appeared the phone started ringing promptly at 11:00 when we opened and virtually never stopped, and we had literally more than 30 times the normal number of people come by (we counted), often with a cutout copy of the review in hand.

We're not complaining. We love getting NYTimes reviews. It's simply an astounding amount of power the critics have to influence events.

That's why it was rather upsetting to read the post by Tyler on Modern Art Notes this morning:

Why is New York Times art critic Grace Glueck on the board of trustees of an art museum, the Clark Art Institute? Glueck's role at the Clark seems to be a direct violation of the Times' own ethics policies.

"[Times staff] may not join boards of trustees, advisory committees or similar groups except those serving journalistic organizations or otherwise promoting journalism education," the Times' own ethics handbook says. It adds that it doesn't matter that Glueck, who has 62 bylines so far this year, is technically a free-lancer: "Freelance contributors to the Times, while not its employees, will be held to the same standards as staff members when they are on Times assignments."

The Glueck conflict is obvious and embarrassing, and should not be dismissed as one of those things that is for some reason permissible at the culture desk. Would the Times allow its labor reporter to serve on the board of a labor union? Or could a Times science reporter sit on the board of the American Lung Association? What about its religion columnist: Would it allow him to serve on the board of a church, even if, say, he didn't write about that church? (Glueck last wrote about the Clark in 1991.) The answer is to all of those questions is: No. It should not be OK for a Times art critic to be a trustee of an art museum.

Tyler outlines in detail why this apparent conflict is quite serious. Now, I don't mind saying, I thought long and hard before deciding to post on this. The last thing any gallerist in New York wants to do is upset the decision makers at the Times Arts desk. And there's a part of me that hopes there's an explanation that makes this less problematic than it appears to be. I've never met Grace, but have met most of her colleagues and they're everyone remarkably friendly, intelligent, and wonderfully passionate about art. More than that, they are open, direct, and honest. That reflects well on their newspaper and is what we expect from the Old Gray Lady. So it seems incongruous that the editors would turn a blind eye to a conflict so apparently glaring as the one Tyler highlights. Still a response from the Times does seem in order.


Blogger Art Soldier said...

Dear Mr. Winkleman,

While we appreciate your thoughtful, careful, and covering-your-own-ass criticism of our ethical policies, we regret to inform you that we will no longer be recognizing your art gallery as within the pale of our cultural coverage. We simply cannot allow a challenge to our status as the supreme regulator of the international culture industry. We hope you understand, and best of luck without us.


The New York Times

p.s. Your blog thingy is adorable.

6/07/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

we regret to inform you that we will no longer be recognizing your art gallery as within the pale of our cultural coverage


I take it back! I take it back!!!!

Your blog thingy is adorable.

purrrrrrrr...ahh...shucks...thanks, Timesey.


Kidding aside, this is just depressing. I keep looking to the Times to maintain their position in my esteem as the world's most dependable source of news, despite Judith Miller, despite Jayson Blair, etc. And given the size of their operation it's understandable a few bad apples would get in, but eventually my faith will be broken for good.

I want this to be a big misunderstanding.

6/07/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Edward, whatever you do, don't accept any offers to be on the Board of Trustees for the NYT. I mean even if they beg you.

6/07/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

You are very brave to highlight this story...and it sure does show how the grant system, the critics, the elite collectors and galleries not only LOOK like they are in cahoots, but they much as they may be hard on a gallery owner like your self...just imagine how overwhelming it has been for us artists?! I often joke that the "art world" is a mafia...well it really is many times.

This is one more reason why art may eventually follow some of the path of alternative music scene and local grassroots movements. Although there is very little money is such a trend or should I say potential trend, there may be a feeling of commraderie and community that many many artists have never experienced being outside the "outfit" as we call it here in Chicago.

this is why art is not for the people or for the artist and it is very sad.

but bless you for writing about it this story would have likely been missed by me. Not that its a story I haven't heard many times before.


6/07/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

art world" is a mafia...

Probably not so much mafia as country club.

6/07/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I've been lurking at this blog for a good while but I am just learning that Edward is a ...ahem....a chelsea gallery director!

No kidding.

This blog felt more like the blog of an outsider, somehow.

I never visited that Ultra+ gallery. Not much familiar with the roaster either. But maybe some of them are the the next big thing.
Who knows.

If there is ever a big open house group show maybe I'd like to be there? '-) I'm not american though.

I think every critics have conflicts of interests because they have friends in the artworld and personal tastes.

This business is all about bias.


Cedric Caspesyan

6/08/2006 01:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Clark is an exceptional summer destination.

Reviews of shows at the Clark usually appear at the start of the summer driving-distance tourism season. Venues in the Lower Hudson River Valley, the Hamptons, and summer tourism areas of New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania tend to get reviewed from late May through August. Hence the review of the David exhibition; the show's appearance at the Clark was within reasonable driving distance of many of the newspaper's readers.

I believe that the review of the show featuring Courbet's paintings two years ago was by Ken Johnson, who is beholden to no one.

6/08/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I agree with you about Ken, anonymous, and I'd say the same about the other Times critics as well. In fact, I think it's only fair to hold final judgment in this case too until the Times responds. I'm not sure it's in their interest to do so, but it would be reassuring.

6/08/2006 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My .02 on these issues can be found here:

6/08/2006 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous JL said...

The Clark is an exceptional summer destination.

I'd agree with everything the anonymous person wrote in that comment. The Clark gets the attention it does not only because it's an extraordinarily beautiful museum, but because it's in the Berkshires. Their exhibition schedule is built on having a big, popular show in the summertime. As for why review David there and not the Getty, Tyler himself has pointed out how much more attention the Times gives the east coast as opposed to the west--it's closer, and it's the editors' orientation. No one from New York summers in southern California.

That said, I'm not going to go as far as say there may not be any issues to consider here. But I wouldn't be surprised that this is more a case of "the appearance of a confict of interest" than the real thing. I've always been of the opinion that the latter matters far more than the former. Still, clarification would be a good idea--and if they can't do that (as opposed to merely won't), that would be a problem.

6/08/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

A few years ago, when I was a publicist, Grace Glueck reviewed one of the exhibits I was promoting. I distinctly remember how she wouldn't allow me to give her a free cup of coffee from the museum cafe, because of Times ethics rules. She fished $1.23 out of her purse to avoid a conflict of interest. I'm waiting to hear that this issue is a misunderstanding, because it just doesn't make sense to me otherwise.

6/08/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

If you and your artists suffer any ramifications from this post, you might consider Edna's strategy and become anonymous. Given the similarities between the art world and the 9th grade, being anonymous seems safer.

6/08/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have just found this blog, and liked it. I have just Discover The Power Of Bloggingand will visit this blog again in the future.

9/10/2006 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger wow power leveling said...

If I were gold für wow a boy again,world of warcraft gold I would practice perseverance wow gold cheap more often,maple meso and never give up a thing because it was or inconvenient. If we want light,Maple Story Account we must conquer darkness. Perseverance can sometimes equal genius in its gold kaufen “There are only two creatures,”cheap maplestory mesos syas a proverb, “who can surmount the pyramids—the eagle and the snail.” If I were a boy again,wow geld I would school myself into a habit of attention;maple mesos I would let nothing come between me and the subject in hand.maple story power leveling I would remember that a good skater never tries to skate in two directions at once.billig wow gold The habit of attention becomes part of our life, if we begain early enough. I often hear grown up people say maple story items“ I could not fix my attention on the sermon or book, although I wished to do so” , wow powerlevelingand the reason is, the habit was not formed in youth. If I were to live my life over again,wow leveling I would pay more attention to the cultivation of the memory. I would strengthen that faculty by every possible means,wow power leveling and on every possible occasion.maplestory powerleveling It takes a little hard work at first

1/30/2009 07:52:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home