Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wild Assed Guessing

Yesterday I told you how Blake (and Jessica) got his job at the WaPo back in the days when the Post used to have a weekly galleries column, a weekly museum review and a weekly "Arts Beat" column focused often on local galleries and visual artists, and wasn't such an ardent member of the Fake News Industrial Complex.

Over the decade that was all pretty much decimated by Eugene Robinson when he ran the Style section for a few years. In my opinion, and as an outsider looking in, Robinson all but destroyed the visual arts coverage in the Style section, pretty much reducing it to the sorry state that it is today: the galleries column is about twice a month, "Arts Beat" is gone and the chief art critic writes ad hoc about museums and New York art shows. A studied review of old entries about this issue reported in this blog will reveal me reporting on many promises by the WaPo Style leadership over the years; promises which were never actually delivered.

And in 2011 I can almost understand why... after all, readers are leaving the WaPo and other papers in droves, advertising revenues are down, management still has a 1990s mindset in the 21st century (they fought the opportunities opened by the internet when they had an early chance), etc.

And in view of all this, I think that there are three scenarios for the expected replacement of Blake Gopnik.

I write "expected" because we're all assuming and expecting that the Post will replace Gopnik's voice, tasks and assignments with another writer. But even that is not a given in 2011, and I'm sure that someone at the Post, probably outside of Style (and instead one of the bean counters) will make a case for just using AP or UPI art reviews.

But I suspect that even Don Graham understands that as (arguably) the nation's second most influential newspaper, the WaPo must have a chief art critic. All the other big boy newspapers do. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

So in order of probability the three scenarios are:

1. WaPo gets a replacement for Gopnik from "in-house" by filling the position with someone already in the employment of the WaPo.

2. WaPo contracts a local DMV writer to contribute museum reviews and he/she shares the load with Dawson, already a contracted freelancer.

3. WaPo hires an outsider art critic from another newspaper below the "newspaper food chain" from the WaPo (same as they did with Gopnik).

Scenario one is the most probable because it is the least costly to the WaPo. By replacing Gopnik with a critic already in the employ of the WaPo, salary negotiations are easier, and the WaPo saves on moving expenses as well as travel expenses in interviewing applicants from outside the area. It also makes the paperwork a lot easier and in the end the payroll is one less as no one has had to be hired in order to replace Gopnik. If this scenario is the principal one, then this would be good news for the DMV art scene, as the logical replacement for Gopnik would be O'Sullivan. And he is already well-versed in the DMV art scene, knows everyone and everyone knows him, and would just have to move his desk from Weekend to Style. Cost to the WaPo?: A well-deserved pay raise bump to O'Sullivan. Cost to O'Sullivan?: He may end up writing reviews for both Style and Weekend and doubling his work load (and thus his paycheck?). Or Weekend would hire a freelancer to do some random visual art reviews every couple of months or so. An interesting twist to this scenario would be if Style got Dr. Claudia Rousseau, who (a) writes for the Gazette, which is owned by the Post and thus already within the Post financial borg, and (b) comes with a respectable and award winning provenance for critical art writing derived from many years of writing about art (in Spanish) for Latin American newspapers and locally for the Gazette, (c) she is a respected college professor on the subject of art and art history, and (d) would add some highly needed diversity to the ranks of Style critics.

Scenario two is the next most probable because it ends with a couple of freelancers (not Post employees) sharing the Gopnik load for Style. That means they save on insurance, 401(k), etc. If scenario two is the one, then one of these guys/gals is the pool of DMV art critics and artsy writers (in no particular order): Jeffry Cudlin, Claudia Rousseau, Maura Judkis, John Anderson, Kriston Capps, Kevin Mellema, John Blee, JW Mahoney, Lou Jacobson (he'd only do photography reviews), John Blee, etc. and maybe some of those random names that show up once in a while in the back of the magazine reviews in the national artzines. The top two choices?: Cudlin or Rousseau. They are both award winning critics, well-known and respected in the DMV and I'm somewhat sure that they'd be interested in the job. Because of Cudlin's superb performance as a curator at the AAC, Cudlin is a double threat for moving up the food chain in the better paid curatorial food chain, and maybe he's more interested in following that line, but he'd still make an excellent Gopnik-replacement local choice (but not sure if he could do both jobs at once). Rousseau's strong points are discussed in the previous scenario, and also make her a formidable choice (if she's interested in the job). Because of Cudlin's success as a curator, I think Jeffry is probably more in tune with moving up the curatorial food chain (are you listening Hirshhorn?) and thus advantage Rousseau.

Scenario three is the least likely because it is the most expensive and time intensive for the Post. The new hire would have to be lured away from another newspaper, and be hired as a Post employee with all rights and benefits. This seems a long shot in this financially austere environment where the WaPo is early-retiring and letting go people of left and right. Four wild assed guesses: Fabiola Santiago from the Miami Herald, Alan Artner from the Chicago Tribune, Robert Pincus (formerly of the San Diego Union-Tribune) and Regina Hackett (formerly of the Seattle P.I.). My heart would be with Regina.

Let's see how right I am, meanwhile I will be waiting for the Post to call me to be part of their search committee for the hiring of the new Blake Gopnik.

Comments welcomed; I am sure that I skipped some potential names in scenario two.

Oh yeah... the replacement for Givhan is easy: Philippa P. B. Hughes.


I never got the news release, which bums me out, but now that I'm back in the DMV from Miami, I hear that Leigh Conner and Jamie Smith, whom are the hardworking co-founders of Conner Contemporary Art, and Helen Allen, former director of the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, are launching an art fair in D.C.: (e)merge.

I got the news from Kriston Capps over at the WCP, who seems positive about it (yay), as do I.


As Capps points out, the fact that Conner & Smith are involved, plus the endorsement of world-class art collectors like the Rubells, plus the former Pulse imprimatura of the very fair Helen Allen, all seem to add to making this new art fair a good one.

Key to the success of the fair are also how successful the organizers are in ensuring that the key DMV art galleries participate.


Easy... if the top 15-20 DMV art galleries, the ones that already do art fairs in NYC, Miami, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Persian Gulf, participate in this fair, they will bring with them their jealously guarded collectors' list and they will mail their VIP passes to those collectors.

And those collectors will come, just for a curiosity, and also a chance to hang around with other DMV collectors and some international names brought in by Rubell & Allen. And if they come (which they didn't en mass to Art DC), then the chances of success for this fair improves tremendously.

And because the very cool Rubells are involved, and because they are nice people who are big names in the world scene who have nothing to do with politics, the press will be interested and positive and supportive (witness Capps); as if some big movie star was doing this; but in this case an art star (can one have two semi-colons in one long, run-on sentence?)

Another big improvement: the change from the Convention Center to the Capitol Skyline Hotel is a huge one. The "savings" are both psychological and monetary, from such simple issues as union hands at the convention center requiring to move your art in and out of your booth (at an added cost), parking issues, etc. Let's just say (coming from someone who has done a lot of art fairs): I am glad that it is at a hotel rather than the Convention Center.

The formula looks good.

Can I hear an "Amen".... somebotttty!

Opportunity for Photographers

Deadline: December 17, 2010

Call for entries for the Fifth Annual Photography Exhibition at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Entries must be received by December 17, 2010. The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is seeking submissions of any and all photographic processes, black and white or color, traditional or alternative, material or digital, time-based, performance based, any work exploring the act of photography. The exhibition will open on January 8, 2011 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. and will run through February 4, 2011. Cash awards will be announced at the opening.

The juror for the exhibition is Bruce McKaig, local artist and art educator. Bruce McKaig chairs the Photography Department at CHAW and teaches at Georgetown University and the Smithsonian Associates. He has exhibited nationally and internationally for over thirty years and every once in a while reviews a DMV show in this blog. For more information about his work, please visit his website here.

HOW: Submit the following:
➢ Three to five jpegs on a CD
➢ Image inventory list specifying title, size, medium, date and price (or insurance value)
➢ Contact info including a mailing address, phone number and email
➢ An entry fee of $25.00 for up to five images, payable to CHAW

WHERE: Please hand deliver or mail these materials to:

545 7th Street SE
Washington DC 20003

Things I don't understand

Now that Blake is leaving the WaPo and heading to his beloved New York, and of course we wish this erudite and polarizing man the best of luck in NYC (as we used to say in the Navy: "fair winds and following seas"), the question is: what is the big secret as to what his next gig is?"

Any guesses? New York Times, New York Post, New York Daily News, New Yorker, Newsweek+Daily Beast? One of the online outlets?

And are there any locals in the running for his job? The last time this happened and Gopnik got hired, was (in newspaper years) eons ago, when newspapers were actually hiring personnel.

Prior to coming to the WaPo Gopnik used to write for a Canadian newspaper. Then a decade ago, when the then WaPo chief art critic, Paul Richard, sort of retired, the WaPo began to look for a replacement.

Ferdinand Protzman was the critic who used to write the "Galleries" column back then. Protzman had (and still does) a formidable provenance, and prior to moving to DC and writing the "Galleries" column for the Post once a week (ahhh.... the good ole days), had bucket loads of experience writing for European newspapers and American magazines.

And from what I recall, he applied for the Richard vacancy, and when he wasn't selected for the position (given to Gopnik) he quit. At least that's the story which filtered down to the DC art world back then.

That left the WaPo with a freelance vacancy for "Galleries", and Jessica Dawson, who back then was one of the critics for the Washington City Paper and was also doing some online art reviews for the WaPo (ahhh... the good ole days) applied for and got the "Galleries" job.

But in 2011, almost 2012, the situation is very different, and I suspect that the odds now are stacked more in favor of someone already in the WaPo payrolls being moved to the job.

More later...