Interview: Kate Taylor

Kate Taylor has been the arts and culture reporter for the New York Sun for two years. Prior to joining the Sun, she was an editorial assistant at The New Yorker and Slate, and interned at Harper's. She's a 2001 graduate of Harvard University.

Kate Taylor has been the arts and culture reporter for the New York Sun for two years. Prior to joining the Sun, she was an editorial assistant at The New Yorker and Slate, and interned at Harper's. She's a 2001 graduate of Harvard University.

PRWeek: What sets the New York arts and culture scene apart?

Kate Taylor: In terms of comparing it to other cities across the country, there's a lot of it. There's a lot going on in nonprofit cultural institutions, [including] Lincoln Center and all its constituents, the Metropolitan Opera, all of the museums, [etc]. And there are the for-profit areas of culture – Broadway, a rich theater scene, and the art market. There [are many] wealthy people in New York who support the nonprofit institutions philanthropically and spend money in the art market, so that keeps things very lively.

PRWeek: If you had to draw a comparison between New York and, say, Los Angeles, where the film industry is very big, would that be the biggest difference? The nonprofit element?

Taylor: I haven't spent that much time in LA, but my impression is, in terms of the fine arts and visual arts world, New York is more the art market and the museum scene. But there are actually a lot of working artists in LA. People think of New York as being more the market, museums, the curators, and criticism, and LA is more the production side of art. There's more inexpensive space for artists to have studios [there].

PRWeek: Everyone has been talking about the sky-high prices that fine art has been commanding at the recent auctions? Why is art so hot? Why are prices so high? And can you make any predictions about how long it's going to last?

Taylor: I think everybody since the recent auctions is going to throw up [his or her] hands and stop making predictions about when the prices are going to crash. People have been trying to make those predictions and it certainly didn't happen in these spring auctions.

As to why art has become so valuable, it has become, for many complicated reasons, one of the really prestigious kinds of luxuries to invest in. Buying a painting that has graced the catalogue of Christie's or Sotheby's is a statement that you have made it in a huge way; that you're one of the few handfuls of the wealthiest people in the world.

And people now regard art as a substantial asset and investment vehicle in a way that they didn't a few years ago. It's now considered a safe, even profitable investment. People can borrow against art and do all these financial things that wouldn't have been imaginable a few years ago.

PRWeek: You've written recently about the overlap of art and fashion, and art and books, particularly with reference to James Frey's new book [Bright Shiny Morning]. Do these associations contribute to or distract from the art scene?

Taylor: I certainly don't think they detract from [the art scene]. Some of these associations are somewhat for PR purposes on both sides. There's obviously a lot of promotion involved in all of these cultural worlds where people are fighting for a small audience of book buyers or [museum-goers].

It all sort of adds to the mix, and ego and self-promotion have always been a part of the art world, part of what makes it interesting.

The art world is regarded by the publishing world as hipper, flashier. The book world is a little more tweedy, a little fuddy-duddy. I think people in the publishing world like to have an association with the art world. And the association is not totally tenuous in the sense that bohemian scenes often involve artists and writers.

PRWeek: The arts beat is covered by newspapers, magazines, and Web sites all across the city. How does that affect the way you do your work?

Taylor: It's certainly a competitive beat. I focus on the hard news side, which includes major stories like who's going to be the next director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Whoever breaks that story is going to have a great coup. We're also trying to find out who's going to be the next director of the Guggenheim Museum [and] the whole Guggenheim Foundation. It's something lots of people pay attention to.

PRWeek: What's your relationship with PR professionals? What advice do you have if they have something they want to talk with you about?

Taylor: I'm close to many of the PR people I work with at the different institutions, and there are certain PR firms that work largely with cultural institutions. Obviously, it's always great when people approach me with ideas that actually are relevant to my beat. If they know the kinds of things I write, the level of seriousness of the things I write…people will send e-mails or even call me up about a celebrity that's appearing to promote some product somewhere in town and that's just not something that the Sun would ever cover. It's better when pitches are more accurately focused.

As I suppose in all fields, but probably more in the art world, there's news that, to some extent, is free publicity for institutions, which is great, it's fun stuff to write, [and] it's stuff that people like to read. They want to know what's happening around town. There are also hard news stories that are quite competitive where the institutions want to have control over how the news is going out. I appreciate when PR people recognize that journalists have their job, which is different from a PR person. I want to work cooperatively and I certainly don't expect them to want me to break a story that they don't want me to break. Yet they should understand that we each have our roles, and sometimes I'm going to be pursuing something more fiercely at the same time that I'm going to be working with them cooperatively.

Name: Kate Taylor

Title: Arts and culture reporter

Outlet: New York Sun

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