LA Times Art Critic Christopher Knight Wins the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for His Blistering Appraisal of LACMA’s $750 Million Expansion
The veteran art critic has been nominated for the honor three times before.
Christopher Knight, the art critic for the Los Angeles Times, has won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, the most prestigious award in the field. He earned the distinction for his columns analyzing—and criticizing—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s controversial Peter Zumthor-designed renovation and the effects it would have on the museum’s mission and display of its collection.
Knight is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (1991, 2001, and 2007), but this year marks his first win. He beat out Justin Davidson of New York magazine, nominated in part for his writing on the Hudson Yards development in New York, and Soraya Nadia McDonald of The Undefeated, honored for her work exploring the intersection of film, theater, and race.
The jury said Knight’s work demonstrated “extraordinary community service by a critic” through the application of “his expertise and enterprise to critique a proposed overhaul of the L.A. County Museum of Art and its effect on the institution’s mission.”
Knight’s columns explore the shortcomings of LACMA’s renovation plan from the inside out, including an exploration of the practical challenges presented by Zumthor’s proposed concrete walls and a thorough analysis of reduced size of the exhibition space in the new building. Non-LACMA-related columns in the winning body of work include reviews of MOCA’s “Pattern and Decoration” exhibition and “Book of Beasts,” a show on medieval bestiaries at the Getty.
This has been a big year for the veteran art critic: Knight also received a $50,000 Lifetime Achievement Award in Art Journalism from the Rabkin Foundation. Over his long career, he has done much to chronicle and hold to account the art institutions of Los Angeles. Knight is as known as much for his encyclopedic knowledge of Los Angeles’s art history as for his harsh critiques of the uncomfortable intersections of the commercial and nonprofit worlds.
Historically, art critics have seldom won the Pulitzer, but Knight is the second art critic in a row to earn the honor. Last year, the award for criticism went to New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz.
Knight has a master’s degree in art history from the State University of New York and a bachelor’s degree from Hartwick College in visual art and literature. Before he became an art critic, he worked as a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.
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