ArtsJournal blog 'Modern Art Notes' has a well-argued post today alleging that Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune's position as co-director of two major art fairs is an inherent conflict of interest. "The arrangement puts a Village Voice art critic in bed with a major art market player," Tyler Green writes. He makes two significant points-that Viveros-Faune's work in the Voice has the power to advance the commercial prospects of artists he's got a business interest in and more disturbing, that by ignoring an exhibit, he has a good chance of squelching its success. Determining who might have been wronged by the one-time Roebling Hall gallery-owner's conflict would be pretty much impossible. Does any of this matter?
The intersection of the arts world and the journalism world is a tricky place. More so, or at least more often, than movie and book critics, reviewers of the arts tend to have had an academic or professional background in the industry. Viveros-Faune's predecessor, the brilliant Jerry Saltz, was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial, but then again, that was a nonprofit undertaking.
It's not all that hard to see why newspapers rely on critics with proven industry experience; Joe Schmo editor can usually (usally!) decipher if a book reviewer has no idea what he's talking about-if an editor isn't up on his art history, monitoring that critic is a bit thornier.
More unnerving really, is Viveros-Faune's blasee attitude regarding the public trust. In an interview with 'Modern Art Notes,' he explains: "Honestly, I thought it basically came with the territory. It's either that [conflict] or teaching. We're not nuns here...I'm not the first person to do it, nor is it the first time that I've done this, meaning functioned with a similar conflict." It was during his time as a critic for the New York Press, that Viveros-Faune ran Roebling Hall.
"I told my editor, so he knows, and of course I hope the paper is not going to care much." Huh! I'd wager the paper is going to care much-enough to look into the critic's work so far and to set down some guidelines for the future.