For the last few weeks, those of us who have known that Ken Johnson, the Globe's art critic, would be leaving to return to New York City have been trying to put off the inevitable. But with Johnson's final day approaching, it is time to face reality.
Ken is leaving, and we're sorry to see him go. (Just to head off the "Globe is cutting arts staff" stories, arts editor Scott Heller says that the paper will replace Ken with a full-time critic, and is going to start interviewing candidates over the next few weeks.)
I asked Ken to explain his decision mainly because I knew he was happy at the paper.
"With mixed feelings I will be leaving the Globe at the end of this month. I'm moving back to New York, and I'm returning to writing art criticism for the New York Times as one of its principal freelance critics. Though not a staff job, it's a slightly better position than the one I had before I came to the Globe, and it offers opportunities for professional growth and diversification that I feel I cannot pass up. I'll also be doing some part-time teaching: This semester I'm running a seminar in criticism and theory with students in the MFA studio art program at Hunter College; and in the spring, I'll teach a seminar for the School of Visual Art's MFA program in criticism and writing.
I hope no one will interpret my departure as a critique of Boston, the Boston art world, or the Boston Globe. I've had a wonderful time living and working in Boston since I started at the Globe last September; it's been an excellent adventure. I've felt welcomed and appreciated; I've met and befriended some terrific people; my editors and colleagues at the Globe gave me the space and the encouragement to do some writing that I'll always be proud of and that I might otherwise have not been able to do; and the museums and galleries of Boston and New England gave me lots to write and think about. I found that there is a highly sophisticated community of people in Boston that is intensely and passionately interested and involved in art -- a community that I was looking forward to becoming more deeply a part of. I was also gratified by the responsiveness of the broader, non-artworld Globe readership. Were it not for the
gravitational pull of New York, I'd be happy to spend the remaining years of my career here.
Much as I've enjoyed and profited from my time in Boston, one of the things it taught me is that no other place that I've lived in has felt as much like home to me as New York. So although it pains me to leave unfinished business in Boston, that's where I'm going to go and stay."
A few Ken Johnson specials: