Do you tend to agree with what I write? Even if you don’t, do you find it illuminating? If so, then it doesn’t really matter whether I happen to know the people who made the works of art I recommend, does it? A lot of readers, after all, seem to think I’m a trustworthy critic, and the reason why they do is because their experience has taught them to trust my taste. I’ve worked hard at building that trust. It’s my capital. I wouldn’t dream of squandering it by writing a favorable review of a bad work of art by a good friend. I never have, and I never will.
One more thing: I teach a course in criticism at Rutgers/Newark University, in which I spend a few minutes early in the semester talking about conflicts of interest. Rule No. 1 of arts journalism, I tell my students, goes like this: “Never sleep with anybody you write about.” That gets their attention–especially since I put it more bluntly than that….
Read the whole thing here.