Grace Glueck, a pioneering art reporter at the New York Times who helped bring to light a major controversy over sex-discrimination at the paper, died at the age of 96 on Saturday at her home in Manhattan. The writer’s relatives confirmed the news to the Times.
During the six decades that she was active, Glueck reported on artists and the art world. She began doing so at a time when criticism was considered the primary way of writing about visual art.
Her reporting on the niche sector, which culminated in several thousands of writings that included profiles, interviews and event coverage, began a nationwide trend, with other outlets in the U.S. establishing the arts as a beat in their own newsrooms.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as the art world began to expand in size, Glueck’s reporting let readers inside the sector’s opaque walls. At the time, exhibitions were the main focus for critics. Glueck instead turned her attention to the network of commercial dealers, institutions, artists, movements, and collectors that helped make those shows happen.
Some of Glueck’s most influential work was focused on a rising tide of feminist artists, whose art was responding to a widening political movement across the U.S. A current exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, “52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone,” draws on Glueck’s review of its similarly titled 1971 showcase, which she reviewed for the Times.
While spearheading that news reporting, Glueck also helped lead a 1974 class action lawsuit with eight of her colleagues. The group of women alleged that the Times had systematically underpaid its female staffers and failed to promote many of them. The suit led to a landmark settlement, with the Times agreeing to hire women in corporate positions across its newsroom and to compensate its female employees for delays in promoting them.
Glueck, who was a graduate of New York University, began working at the Times in 1951 in a clerical job. During the early stages of her time at the paper she was not permitted to train as a reporter because of her gender, she revealed in 1997. At the time, few women held higher newsroom positions and it was common for female college graduates to be discouraged from seeking out professional careers. Eventually, she landed at the New York Times Book Review, researching artworks. She held the position for just over a decade, up until the 1960s.
She was eventually given a column titled “Art People,” were she published interviews and writing on artists like Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O’Keeffe, Francis Hines, George Grosz, Max Weber, and Phillip Guston, among others.
Her work appeared in other major outlets like the New Criterion, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Art in America.
In a tribute to Glueck, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight called Glueck “exceptional.” In another, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman described his former colleague as “savagely witty,” dubbing her work as “still the gold standard for art reporting.”