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Suzanne Muchnic to retire as arts reporter

December 14, 2009 |  3:01 pm

Sallie Hofmeister, assistant managing editor, arts and entertainment, and Craig Turner, arts and entertainment editor, sent this note to staff:

We have some bittersweet news to share: After 31 years at The Times, Suzanne Muchnic has decided to retire as arts reporter in the Entertainment Group. We are delighted for Suzanne, who will have more time to travel, write books and spend with her husband, who is already retired. But her departure leaves a void that simply cannot be filled. Suzanne takes with her a vast institutional knowledge and authority that comes from chronicling the city’s transformation into a global art center over three decades. Gratefully, The Times will not lose her voice entirely, as Suzanne will be a regular contributor to Calendar.

Suzanne’s tenure at The Times paralleled perfectly the ripening of the city’s art scene. When she joined the paper, MOCA didn't exist, the Getty hadn't received its fortune, LACMA was operating out of its three original buildings and most of the galleries were clustered along La Cienega. Suzanne distinguished the paper in covering these developments and others.
Her coverage earned her the Distinguished Alumna Awards from Scripps College and Claremont Graduate University and first prize for arts and entertainment reporting from the greater Los Angeles Press Club. Her book on Norton Simon won the 2002 Donald Pflueger Local History Award of the Historical Society of Southern California.

As a critic, Suzanne was no pushover. A few years after she joined the paper in 1981 came the Great Manure Dump. An artist responded to Suzanne’s critique of his work by unloading 10 tons of horse manure in the middle of First Street in front of The Times' main entrance. The pile tied up traffic and attracted national press coverage.
As a reporter, Suzanne took readers to all corners of the world to give art its proper context. From Moscow in 1988, she reported on the Soviet Union’s first auction of long-repressed Russian avant-garde and contemporary Soviet art, conducted by Sotheby’s, introducing many works of art to an international audience. She also traveled to the world’s oldest continuously operating Christian monastery, St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, to write about the ancient home of icons and other artworks lent to an exhibition at the Getty. She also accompanied a Getty Conservation Institute project to China to report on the restoration of the world’s richest trove of ancient Buddhist wall paintings and sculptures in a complex of art-filled caves along a riverbed in the Gobi Desert.
Suzanne’s last day is Dec. 18. Please join us in sending her good wishes for her new life.