Poor Los Angeles. You can’t help feeling sad for this city, which has been trying so hard to prove that it’s a first-rate visual art metropolis. The Pulitzer Prize committee doesn’t think so. This week’s announcement of the Pulitzer in criticism, which went to Jonathan Gold, a restaurant reviewer for LA Weekly, follows on the heels of the last criticism Pulitzer to go to LA, in 2004. That was for a car writer.
I’m not here to debunk writing about food, cars, and other popular pursuits. But in their eagerness to make a point, the Pulitzer people have ignored, yet again, the current energy of art and architecture in LA. Good criticism is part of that picture. Without it, the renaissance can prove fleeting.
What irks me is why LA must be the place to unfurl the flag of critical populism. It’s such a shopworn cliché. At a time when catastrophic management is shredding one of the great papers in the nation, it would be nice to see an affirmation that LA and its beleaguered hometown daily can play in the cultural big leagues.
Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, cause for optimism. The much-anticipated business glossy Portfolio is here, and it’s chockablock with arts writing. Business Intelligence (the magazine’s tagline) has been deemed to encompass awareness about cultural industries. The cover is a spectacular homage, by Scott Peterman, to Berenice Abbot’s classic aerial shot of Manhattan. The skyscrapers in the picture look like so many glowing gold ingots. A special section, Culture Inc., is devoted to arts and philanthropy. The assignments are somewhat predictable at this point, with the obligatory briefing on the Chinese art boom, etc. But there is real promise here.
A word of caution. Robust art coverage in business magazines is a canary in a mineshaft. During the last boom, by the time Fortune and Forbes got around to it, the market bust was already around the corner.