The ongoing saga of New York Times art critic Ken Johnson continues. The author is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), where his review of "The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World" caused a number of art world A-listers to charge him with “irresponsible” criticism.
If you aren't caught up on the back story, the "media power bachelor" and 12-year New York Times veteran managed to offend a large swathe of the art world twice within a few weeks, first by arguing the merits of work you "don't have to be black to feel," and then with a provocative preview of a survey of work by more than "150 women artists at PAFA." In a squib only five lines long, Johnson squeezed this rhetorical bomb in: "Sexism is probably a good enough explanation for inequities in the market. But might it also have something to do with the nature of the art that women tend to make?"
The online backlash unfolded in due course: an open letter signed by art world big wigs decrying Johnson's "insinuating question" soon made its way to the Times offices (and got a fairly frosty response), Johnson wrote a mea culpa on his Facebook page, and now we come to stage three, when he makes nice in person. According to an email sent to The Huffington Post by Heike Rass, PAFA's Vice President of Marketing, the panel in January will focus on "how gender and ethnicity factors into how art is reviewed."
PAFA is reaching out to artists, community leaders, educators and students to join the discussion. Here's hoping at least one of the 1600 folks who signed the letter sign on and give us a real talk. Let us know your thoughts on the panel in the comments. In the meantime, check out some of the art world's other biggest blunders in the slideshow below.
Update: Artist and HuffPost's Founding Arts Editor Kimberly Brooks is speaking on PAFA's panel on Sunday, February 10, along with Johnson, artist Njideka Akunyili, artist Joyce Kozloff, moderator Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw (PAFA associate professor), and curator Robert Cozzolino of PAFA.