Art critic Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times has won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Nominated for the prestigious prize in 1991, 2001, and 2007, Knight finally nabbed the accolade for his watchdog coverage of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s controversial redesign, which has drawn criticism over its shrinking of the institution’s footprint and ballooning cost. Knight is one of the few visual arts critics to win the Pulitzer. Previous recipients include Jerry Saltz (2018), Jen Graves (2014), Philip Kennicott (2013), and Holland Cotter (2009).
The 2020 prize jury—comprising David J. Von Drehle, Lance Esplund, Lawrie Mifflin, Ray Mark Rinaldi, and Terry Tang—praised Knight for “demonstrating extraordinary community service” and for “applying his expertise and enterprise to critique a proposed overhaul of the LA County Museum of Art and its effect on the institution’s mission.” Among the articles that secured him the award are his critic’s notebooks “Dear LA County: Reject the LACMA Redesign Plan and Go Back to the Drawing Board” and “LACMA’s Concrete Wall Problem: Why a Chic Design Comes with Consequences” as well as his reviews of “Betye Saar: Call and Response” and “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985,” which were staged at LACMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, respectively.
Knight, who has been writting for the Los Angeles Times since 1989, also won the $50,000 Lifetime Achievement Award in Art Journalism from the Rabkin Foundation earlier this year. Prior to pursuing a career in journalism, he worked as a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. 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.
The other finalists of the 2020 prize were Justin Davidson of New York magazine, who was nominated for his architecture reviews as well as his writing on Manhattan’s Hudson Yards development, and Soraya Nadia McDonald, who was nominated for her essays on theater and film.