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March 4, 2010

When Arts News Is Hard News

It's so seldom that I get the chance to quote the FBI that I'm just going to go ahead and do it:

Art and cultural property crime -- which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines -- is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.

That, you might have guessed, comes from the FBI web page devoted to its Art Theft Program, which describes its "dedicated Art Crime Team of 13 Special Agents" and its "National Stolen Art File." Sure, the Gardner heist story is a crime story -- but it's also an arts story. The two frequently intersect.
It's arts news when Italy puts a former curator from California on trial for looting antiquities. It's arts news when a famous music festival's ex-director is under investigation for embezzlement. It's arts news when a onetime big-name Broadway producer is sentenced to prison for fraud.

Arts news that's hard news isn't necessarily about crime, of course, but neither is the spectrum of arts journalism limited to criticism, feature stories and interviews. A lot of arts news demands real reporting, and more of it ought to end up on Page 1. When arts journalists disown legitimate hard news about the arts as being arts news, they feed a misperception of the weight of what we do. Reporting on the arts is serious business.

So, Larry, is the latest development in the Gardner case arts news? Absolutely.

March 4, 2010 8:09 PM | | Comments (2)


Couldn't agree with you more, Laura. We run the risk of alienating ourselves from both the mainstream and A1 conversation by saying: We are purists. Arts reporting is a vast canvas. We don't have a chance if all we want to do and all we're willing to fight for is a narrow slice of our world. And who knows? Maybe those more broadly defined stories help us create a stronger argument for the ones we are more passionate about... And yes, as an editor and a writer, I'd go to the mat (and have many times) for the "pure" arts story to get better placement. I think we have to keep fighting that fight, too. But also be connectors; luckily, the arts offer infinite possibilities.

I definitely agree. It is unfortunate that when people see art in the news it is only there because of some type of financial attachment. Art news should be about the progression of what is happening now, how artists are pushing the limits and struggling to survive.

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