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Score One for Art Criticism: Philip Kennicott’s Pulitzer Prize

Philip Kennicott

Philip Kennicott

It’s no secret that I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with the Washington Post‘s Philip Kennicott, the art-and-architecture critic who on Monday was named to receive the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

But reasonable critics can disagree, and it’s good to see art criticism once again getting the spotlight. The Pulitzer had now gone to three art critics in the past five years—Holland Cotter (NY Times), Sebastian Smee (Boston Globe) and now Kennicott.

UPDATE: The year before Cotter, another art critic won—Mark Feeney (Boston Globe). Make that “four art critics in the past six years”!

Perhaps the Pulitzer administrators should, at long last, amend their description of the criticism category to include art. Right now the FAQ Q&A (scroll to last page) says this:

Q. What belongs in the Criticism category?
A. Critical work on such subjects as books, theater, television, movies, dance and architecture.

Here’s Kennicott’s Pulitzer citation:

Awarded to Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post for his eloquent and passionate essays on art and the social forces that underlie it, a critic who always strives to make his topics and targets relevant to readers.

On his blog, Kennicott commented on how “strange” it was to win the prize “on such an awful day”—the day of the Boston Massacre, which tempered what otherwise might have been a joyous occasion.

The Washington Post’s article on Kennicott’s honor is here.

For what it’s worth, this blog slogger decided not to apply this year. I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that what I write (whether “Pulitzer quality” or not) falls into the no-award, no-man’s land between art criticism and investigative reporting. I need a new category!

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