Conflict of Interest for Times Art Critic?
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:
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.
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.