The Kimbell, weakly

It's getting harder and harder to believe Kimbell Art Museum spokesperson Wendy Gottlieb when she says Fort Worth's world-class museum isn't holding some sort of grudge against the alternative press. When Gottlieb finally returned Blink's call for comment about the Kimbell's lost bid for a pricey Botticelli painting days after deadline -- and long after the request was made -- she offered apologies, followed by rhetoric about museum director Dr. Timothy Potts' being unable to discuss the British art negotiations and various other matters. This diatribe doesn't hold water, though, since Potts did discuss the deal with Dallas Morning News art critic Janet Kutner.

Blink at first felt left out, along with FW Weekly and The Met, when Potts unveiled his first original ideas for the Kimbell since taking over last November, via exclusive interviews with the News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both dailies printed Potts' plans on page one in August. Gottlieb says the Kimbell decided to spill the beans to the dailies because their art writers had been hounding her for the story, and because "we'd heard a rumor that FW Weekly was going to print a negative story about the recasting of the permanent collection."

Closer to the truth, says FW Weekly editor John Forsyth, is that the Fort Worth-based weekly kissed up to the Kimbell by sending pre-interview questions to Gottlieb, which were to be forwarded to Potts. Immediately after that, the Kimbell sent a press release, which answered the Weekly's queries, to the Star-Telegram and the News. "They did not cooperate with us on our story," Forsyth says, "even when we went so far as to take the unusual step of faxing them some of the questions [writer] Kristian Lin wanted to ask Potts. The folks at the Kimbell turned our questions into a press release."

FW Weekly did run a critical and well-researched cover story on September 30 about the Kimbell's redecorating and Potts' exhibition plans for 2000 -- without comment from Potts.

No amount of hounding, Blink can personally confirm, will get Potts' handlers to let him talk to the weeklies' art writers. Potts, who was criticized as a media-hater throughout his last job as director of Melbourne, Australia's National Gallery of Victoria, and who has kept a very, very low profile during his tenure at the Kimbell, may be the one who's keeping the normally professional Gottlieb and her assistant, Pam Muirheid, from equal and timely dissemination of art news in the metroplex.

They need to convince Potts that equitably is how successful museums handle the media here in the States. That much stonewalling makes us wonder what they're worried we'll find out.

Annabelle Massey Helber


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