National Public Radio has caved in to pressure from the Museum of Modern Art and dumped a highly regarded arts reporter, artnet.com reports. The story, which has yet to appear in the print media, begins:
Veteran art-news reporter David D’Arcy has been taken off the air by National Public Radio (NPR) after the Museum of Modern Art complained about his report on the long-running controversy over the ownership of Egon Schiele’s painting, Portrait of Wally. Though the painting was stolen by the Nazis from Viennese dealer Lea Bondi in 1939, its present owner, the Leopold Foundation in Vienna, refuses to return it to Bondi’s heirs, and a contentious court battle has raged ever since the painting turned up in a 1997 MoMA exhibition.
Tyler Green mentioned it this morning in a brief post in his ArtsJournal blog, which is how I learned of the news. Coincidentally, I’ve just received a message (pointing out the story) from a very unhappy West Coast radio producer who is outraged by NPR’s action and is seeking support for D’Arcy:
Jan, This is an awful story about one cultural institution exerting its prestigious might and another, a respected journalistic entity, rolling over and playing dead. It’s been roiling for about a month but efforts to resolve the case have not moved NPR to listen to reason.
David D’Arcy is one of only a few reporters who understand and have been covering the
complex Nazi era art restitution story and he is a respected arts reporter. No print media have yet reported the story [that NPR has dropped him]; artnet.com is the first to report it publicly. You can read who has rallied in support of David, and it’s stunning that NPR has refused to reconsider its very weak and unsupportable position. [Morley Safer is among them.– JH]
This news story is not being sent to you by a disgruntled NPR insider or a right-wing nut out to get the network, or from any Jewish support groups offended by comments in the story, but rather from an organization closely associated with the network that is very concerned about how badly and wrongly the network is handling this.
Artnet News has provided the story and I hope it will be further shared with people who care about what’s left of the credibility and integrity of the media. As one of the last bastions of reliability, it is stunning that NPR would allow itself to be bamboozled and buy into becoming part of MOMA’s spin machine on this story.
NPR is hiding behind the cover of “it’s a personnel matter, we can’t discuss it.” Well, in fact, D’Arcy has been an independent contractor and has been there 21 years. The chill inside the organization is palpable, and the language flying around about it sounds like that used in Mao-ist “reeducation camps.”
Suffice to say, the story ran during the Christmas holiday lull, so the real question is: If there were questions about the story, why weren’t they asked by the appropriate editors and managing editors at the time? Who’s protecting whom and why?
By the way, there are underwriting spots on NPR’s programs, paid for by a foundation that touts the opening of MOMA’s new downtown museum.
Full disclosure: David D’Arcy once interviewed me for a report that was broadcast on NPR about William Wyler and a biography I wrote. It was a very long time ago, almost a decade, so I don’t think I have any conflict of interest in posting this item.