We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Robert Aubry Davis snowed Washington City Paper (“Around Town With Mr. Know-It-All,” 11/15). When Eddie Dean’s front-page article compared Davis to the Medici and Jack Lang it was unearned and unwarranted. The Medici did not have to deal with Montgomery and Fairfax Counties and had the freedom to set up Florence’s art legacy. Jack Lang had Paris, a city in which one can have pride. Davis’ suburban packaging support structure has no comparison to 14th-century Florence or 20th-century Paris.
Though bubbly and charming, with an infectious passion for medieval music, Davis’ lack of interest in Washington’s contemporary fine-art scene is a hindrance. His professional ethics concur with the Washington press corps, who avoid real issues. Davis is politically adept in placing the scene on the back burner because it will not entertain suburban audiences who would find reality and quality of life neither palatable nor interesting. The perpetual enthusiasm of William Dunlap, whose bland attempts at having a real interest in analysis is meant as a cover. Compounding a vicious cycle, his avoidance causes the visual arts to suffer, and the resulting desperation shows in the arts.
A prime example occurred last spring, on Around Town, when Bob Mondello made a silly mistake saying he thought Sam Gilliam, Washington’s fine-art icon, had not done much recently. Realizing the possible damage to Gilliam, Davis jumped to defend the artist, but with difficulty because Gilliam has not raised eyebrows since the Johnson administration, when he removed canvas from stretcher.
The most radical journalism in Washington would be genuine coverage of its fine-art scene. Its legitimatization would cause all sorts of trouble and be a positive aspect enhancing much-needed civic pride.