Times art critic Christopher Knight has won the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation’s lifetime achievement award, which comes with a $50,000 prize.
The year marks the second time the foundation, which is based in Portland, Maine, has given a lifetime achievement award. The first went to Roberta Smith, the New York Times co-chief art critic, in 2019.
Knight has been an art critic at The Times since 1989, where he continues to chronicle the growth of Southern California’s visual art scene. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 1991, 2001 and 2007, and he received the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for art and design criticism last year.
In 1997, he was the first journalist in more than 25 years to receive the Frank Jewett Mather Award for distinction in art criticism from the College Art Assn.
Knight was selected for the lifetime achievement honor by a committee at the Rabkin Foundation. Executive Director Susan C. Larsen said she has long admired Knight’s work.
“He was always the one who chose the important things and wrote in detail and beautifully,” Larsen said. “The most outstanding thing about his career, that lifts him and distinguishes him across the country, is his fearlessness. He’s not afraid to tackle the issues everyone talks about.”
She called Knight “forthright, honest, informed and embedded, and I don’t know what the art world would do without him.”
Knight was a critic at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner from 1980-89, but he began his career as an art historian and curator.
In the late 1970s, Knight was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He also was a consultant to the Lannan Foundation and Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in L.A.
Knight received a bachelor’s degree in visual art and literature from Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. He has a master’s degree in art history from the State University of New York.
The Rabkin Foundation was created in 1999, receiving a bequest from the estate of Leo Rabkin, an artist who with wife Dorothea collected American folk and outsider art. The foundation began awarding $50,000 prizes to visual art journalists across the country in 2017 based on nominations. Times staff writer Carolina Miranda was among the eight inaugural winners.
“It occurred to us that there were a few names that were so major and so obvious that they weren’t getting nominated,” Larsen said. “We asked ourselves, why did someone not nominate Roberta Smith or Christopher Knight? And I think it was that they were kind of in another category.”