Friday, June 16, 2006


Art Journalist Grace Glueck Gets Bum Rap

I am a very strict constructionist when it comes to journalistic ethics: I pick up the tab for covering stories, even when no publication is paying, and I agonize about the few artworks on my walls, because I feel that if I wrote anything about those artists, it would be a conflict of interest.

I knew many years ago about NY Times writer Grace Glueck's membership on the board of the Clark Art Institute, and it did bother me. Ever since I first saw her name on that list, I watched to see if she ever wrote about the Clark. To my knowledge, she didn't. It was a conflict, yes, but a far less serious one than the Times' former publisher being on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for so many years.

The blogger-created public "scandal" over Glueck's lapse, which has just resulted in her resignation from the Clark, doesn't give even a hint of the other side of the story: the fact that her board membership, while inappropriate, caused no discernible slant in Times coverage.

But more importantly, Glueck's record as an art journalist was not merely distinguished, but positively trail-blazing.

Before Glueck, there were art critics, not art journalists. She had the art-reporting beat pretty much to herself when I started out, and she was a brilliant role model. (Speaking of conflicts of interest, I must hasten to add that I admired from afar; I have had absolutely no personal, or even professional, relationship with her.) She was accurate, fair and exhaustive. And I was jealous.

Glueck later turned to art criticism and left the reporting to others. Now the visual-arts beat is teeming with journalists of varying degrees of professionalism. But Grace Glueck, who applied the techniques of political investigative journalism to the little-examined artworld, was mother of us all.

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