I’m finally paying attention to a six-day-old Art of the Steal/Carrie Rickey/Paul R. Levy alleged-conflict of-interest story that’s been unfolding in Philadelphia. Gawker had it Monday, but I was otherwise engaged. A tipster e-mailed me the particulars this morning, and I wrote back saying “thanks…I really love being several days behind on a story!”
Last Friday Rickey reviewed Don Argott‘s Art of the Steal, a doc about the Barnes Foundation, its art collection and a controversial relocation plan. “As a movie, Steal is as finely wrought as the decorative ironworks that hang on the walls of the Barnes between Picassos and Seurats,” Rickey wrote, “yet as a narrative of the facts, it is as one-sided as a plaintiff’s brief.”
The rumpus is an argument/complaint that (a) Rickey should have let someone else review Art of the Steal given her marriage to Paul R. Levy, president and C.E.O. of the Center City District which allegedly benefitted from the contravention of Albert Barnes’ will, etc., as it is believed there are ties to local property tax assessments, or (b) failing that, she should have acknowledged her relationship to Levy as part of her review.
The matter seemed to be thoroughly addressed in a Philebrity story that was posted yesterday. The author quoted Levy as follows: “As advocates for filling in empty spaces on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway so there is more pedestrian activity, we suggested new residential development (hasn’t happened), a new Calder family museum (didn’t happen) and were publicly supportive of the Barnes Foundation when it announced its move. But neither I nor anyone on my staff had any role at all (let alone any authority) to recommend, lobby or cause the Barnes Foundation, its board, or local foundations to decide to move to the Parkway.”
Levy added, “The CCD is supported by assessments on taxable real estate, and the Barnes is tax-exempt.”
I’ve never known Rickey to be anything but brilliant, very cool and as ethical as the next venerated critic. She’s one of the good people. But if I were she (or one of her editors), I probably would’ve included a full-disclosure statement about her marriage to Levy in the review. It’s always wiser to acknowledge the appearance of issues upfront and say “this is no issue in case you had any suspicions along these lines,” rather than just say nothing.