The recent series of job changes at the The New York Times now includes the normally sedate visual arts section, where critics Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith have just been named co-chief art critics. Artnet first reported the news on Twitter, and a Times representative confirmed the promotions to The Observer.
“When you have two of the best art critics on earth and when you need a chief art critic, you know what to do,” Times culture editor Jonathan Landman wrote in a memo announcing the appointments. “You make both of them chief art critic.”
Ms. Smith has been a staff critic at The Times for 20 years, and is the first woman to hold the chief art critic title. Mr. Cotter joined the staff in 1998. He won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 2009.
The chief art critic slot had previously been held by Michael Kimmelman, who was tapped for it in 1990. Mr. Kimmelman was recently named chief architecture critic at the paper, a move that The Observer analyzed last month. Prior to Mr. Kimmelman’s reign, the chief art critic position had been held by Hilton Kramer, John Russell and John Canaday.
Mr. Landman noted that the two critics have “been effectively leading our art coverage for several years already.” Indeed, with Mr. Kimmelman writing a column from Europe since 2007, the pair have regularly reviewed New York’s most high profile exhibitions.
“Is it weird to have two chief critics?” Mr. Landsman asked in his memo. “Maybe a little, but skeptics should consult Tony Scott and Manohla Dargis, our other two-headed chief.” (Mr. Scott and Ms. Dargis write about film for the paper.) He added, “Or their readers. Why be embarrassed by an embarrassment of riches?”