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Philip Kennicott

Philip Kennicott is chief art critic of The Washington Post, which he joined in August 1999. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, in 2000, for editorials opposing a conceal-carry gun referendum in Missouri (which failed despite heavy support from gun-rights organizations), and in 2012 for criticism. In 2006, he was an Emmy Award nominee for a web-based video journal about democracy and oil money in Azerbaijan. He has also won a Cine Golden Eagle for his video work. In 2010 and 2012 he won the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors general commentary award.


The Likhachev Foundation made it possible for me to do a kind of concentrated cultural journalism that is almost impossible if you work for a major newspaper. I spent two weeks focused on apartment museums, dedicated to the memory of important composers, poets and artists. In my daily work as an art and cultural critic, I might be able to explore the occasional exhibition or program held at a small museum. But to study small museums as a type, to take a broader look at the challenges they face financially, culturally and politically, would require too much time away from ordinary responsibilities.

       The Likhachev Foundation not only gave me the time to explore the subject, they facilitated introductions and entrance to the institutions I was studying. In two weeks, I saw sixteen museums and interviewed almost a dozen curators. The foundation also assisted with translation. Setting up all of that independently would have required weeks of preparation, and a lot of hit-or-miss conversations that turned out not to be relevant in the end.

        Under financial stress, newspapers have become less and less tolerant of risk. This has impacted their ability to undertake larger projects, investigative series, and story ideas that might not pan out in the end. The research I did as a Likhachev fellow is precisely the sort of high-risk and potentially low-yield work that newspapers can no longer afford. I am very grateful to the foundation for helping pursue what was at first an inchoate idea. The benefits, in the end, I hope will transcend anything that I write for the Post. They will be apparent in my better understanding museums cross culturally.