Get me rewrite!
In announcing the much-anticipated appointment of a new director for the peerless Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Times today seized an opportunity to take a gratuitous swipe at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's director, Michael Govan (below). Met tapestries curator Thomas P. Campbell (left), 46, who organized a brilliant 2002 show of Renaissance-era woven art and, in 2007, a less-surprising but nonetheless marvelous Baroque tapestry show, was the museum's unexpected choice. His name had appeared on a few guessing-game lists of contenders to replace outgoing director Philippe de Montebello, who has held the prestigious job for more than three decades; but he was certainly a dark horse.
Govan's name had also been floated on published space-filler lists, although without so much as a shred of evidence beyond speculative cherry-picking of bold! face! names! among directors of large art institutions. Be that as it may, New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman today described what not to expect from Campbell's forthcoming museum administration by noting that "connecting with a broad, young public doesn’t require hiring Jorge Pardo or some other living artist to design the cabinetry." Inviting artists, most recently Pardo, to collaborate in museum design has been a hallmark of Govan's LACMA tenure.
Yikes. A critic is entitled to his opinions (trust me on that), but aside from the evident hostility to living artists the put-down implies, the remark is striking for breaking a cardinal rule of criticism. The New York Times' chief art critic lives in Berlin, Germany. Theoretically, it's possible he made the 13-hour flight to L.A. sometime during the last six weeks, since Pardo's controversial installation design for LACMA's Pre-Columbian art collection was unveiled; but color me skeptical. So how does he know it was a bad idea?
Without naming him--as he also hadn't named Govan--Kimmelman likewise jabbed de Montebello's predecessor, former Met director Thomas Hoving, describing him as "visibly unhinged." Fair enough. Hoving has an observable history, commonly lamented, as a player in the culture industry. But the Pardo remark was uncalled for. A critic stumbles--badly--when making pronouncements in the vicinity of art he has not seen.
Photos: Metropolitan Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art