The Pulitzer Prize for criticism has gone to an art writer this year, marking one of the few times in the award’s 50-year history that someone in an art-related field has won the award.
Christopher Knight, the Los Angeles Times’s art critic, will take home the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Just a handful of art critics have ever won the award, which has typically gone to critics with a mass audience such as Roger Ebert, Michiko Kakutani, and Hilton Als. Among the art critics to have won it in years past are New York’s Jerry Saltz in 2018, the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott in 2013, and the New York Times’s Holland Cotter in 2009.
Knight has been writing for the Los Angeles Times since 1989. In that time, he has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects in the L.A. art world. Over the past several months, he has returned frequently to writing about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s controversial new building, designed by Peter Zumthor. In its citation, the Pulitzer committee recognized Knight “for work demonstrating extraordinary community service by a critic, applying 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 has also published an anthology of his art criticism, titled Last Chance for Eden: Selected Art Criticism, 1979-1994, and he also wrote a book on the famed Panza collection. Prior to working at the Los Angeles Times, Knight was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
This year is not the first time that Knight had been up for consideration for the prize, however. He was a finalist for the award in 1991, 2001, and 2007. And he has also won some other major journalism awards, including the $50,000 Rabkin Prize Lifetime Achievement Award (in 2020) and the College Art Association’s Frank Jewett Mather Award for distinction in art criticism (in 1997).