Who cares about art critics? Not the Los Angeles Times.
On June 28th, the financially troubled publication performed a round of staff layoffs, which included cutting art reporter Jori Finkel. The real surprise to this departure comes in the response: a passionate protest letter signed by fifteen directors of Southern California museums and non-profits.
This means a lot. It demonstrates the importance of her criticism, be it positive or negative, to the institutions Finkel reported on for the last five years, and the mark it left on the art community.
In a 2008 essay for Art + Auction, Finkel commented on the importance of continued funding for journalism, even during times of economic hardship:
We all know that newspapers and magazines these days are in financial crisis. And the business model that supports investigative journalism — a project that can suck up huge blocks of time and resources, without a predictable outcome — is even more precarious. That makes it all the more important that we remember the power of investigative journalism in exposing and potentially correcting abuses of power, both inside and outside the art world.
Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes already posted the protest letter, but we’ve reprinted an excerpt below. The more people who see this, the better.
Jori is the go-to source here for art-world news and analysis, with articles that are consistently insightful and accessible and a byline that is read around the world. Her early coverage in 2011 of the Getty’s ambitious $10-million Pacific Standard Time initiative and the many collaborating museum exhibitions helped to shape much of the national and international coverage that followed … Jori’s work and that of the critics go hand-in-hand to provide a sophisticated and robust picture of Los Angeles’s ever-expanding art scene.
It is especially unfortunate to see you dismiss your only staff reporter specializing in art now that Los Angeles is increasingly recognized worldwide as the most influential center for contemporary art and culture. For instance, just as she was being laid off, the New York Times dedicated nearly three full pages to L.A.’s significance within the international art world. Without a dedicated art reporter the competitive positioning of the paper is seriously undermined.