Philip Kennicott is the Art and Architecture Critic of The Washington Post. In 2013 he won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 (criticism) and 2000 (editorial writing). In 2006, he was an Emmy Award nominee and won the Cine Golden Eagle for video work exploring the role of oil money in the politics of Azerbaijan. He has served as classical music critic of the Detroit News, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Washington Post (1999-2001), and is a regular reviewer for Gramophone and a frequent contributor to Opera News, among other publications. More detailed information: KennicottCV2014.

31 responses to “About

  1. Paul Nejelski

    What a pleasant surprise to find your new (?) blog.

    The review of the WNO Turandot is really excellent; my wife and I will being seeing it tomarrow. Your comments are very helpful. I agree, Sabina Cvilak is a wonderful singer/actor — hope WNO will bring her back often.

    Good luck in your blog. I hope you and Anne Midgette will hyperlink each other in the future.

    • Bell Clement

      Mr. Kennicott – Thank you for your 11/9/11 WaPo comment on Occupy DC in our McPherson Square. I found it brilliant, and appreciate the links you provided to Situationists, etc. A provoking piece in all the best senses. The comments on the WaPo site were troubling – I had hoped urbanists would engage with the ideas you introduced about urban connectivity generated from the grassroots. But alas. Instead, evidence of the – to me curious – rage that Occupy inspires in some. In any case – the article prompts me to begin looking for your byline. Thank you for this good tickle of a read.

      • teachermd

        I agree with you Bell Clement! Kennitcott – you have a new fan as it is clear that you are a THINKING JOURNALIST (unfortunately a rarity these days)! I will look forward to reading your articles. And yes.. linking the Situationists DEFINITELY CAUGHT MY EYE! Thanks again.

    • Jay Kauffman

      I just wanted to add my congratulations for the Pulitzer prize win – You are a superb writer – you never talk down to your audience, its obvious your opinions are grounded by a strong technical background and you are just a damned pleasure to read. Musically you are right up there with the great Conrad L Osborne – I really look forward to you future work. Jay Kauffman Haddonfield NJ

  2. What a great blog, its a pleasure to read. Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Coming to SILVERDOCS « Philip Kennicott

  4. charles riley

    what a wonderful feature on style for the current opera news–a model of the kind of think piece that the magazine (and readers like me) needcharles riley

  5. Adam Frank

    Are you serious about this Obama Joker poster being about race? You have to be joking. Your argument is a looooong stretch at best, but only reveals your and the left’s obsession with race. Get over it. It’s not about his race. It’s about his politics. He’s marching this country down a Marxist path that threatens the individual and his liberty; the individual liberty upon which this country was built. It would be the same if Obama was the whitest whitey that ever was. It was the same when George Bush started this statist nonsense. Obama’s policies = bad for the country and for individuals who have to live under them, excluding Obama and Congress, of course.

    • desertcherokee

      Adam Frank….It’s clear that you know nothing about Marxism, liberty, or the relationship between Obama and the current Congress. Other than that, yours is a thoughtful comment.

  6. neo

    although you have nice hair, perhaps a more stylish cut, and definitely lose the goatee, it looks kinda silly.
    and the lime green shirt, meh…
    kinda boring.
    you could look better with a makeover, imho

  7. Pingback: Critic sees racism in poster of Obama as Heath Ledger Joker | A Conversation about Race | STLtoday

  8. dawn

    Great blog! Can’t believe I just found it.
    Was Neo From Aug 6 serious?!! Why would anyone be so self important to think their opinion matters about someones looks? ugh
    Curious what you think about the bass-baritone Mark S. Doss (www.msdoss.com) The artist not the website.

  9. Martha Lemmond Rogers

    If word hadn’t gotten to you yet, Dan Dinicola passed away.


    (Robin Hackett and I thought you’d want to know.)

  10. John S. Hilliard

    Just read your New Republic review of “Why Mahler?’
    Wonderful. We still miss your reviews at the Post.

    John Hilliard

    • philipkennicott

      Great to hear from you. I do still write about music, just not on a daily basis… thank goodness. Hope all is well with you.

  11. Laurie Strachan (Mr)

    Every time I feel really bad about what’s happening in or to America it seems I stumble on something that wipes at least some of my fears away. Such a find was The New Republic and in particular your review of Lebrecht’s Why Mahler. When I finished the book, I immediately sat down to write down my feelings about it (I used to be a music critic and I still am a great lover of Mahler’s music). Then I found your review and it was no longer necessary. You had said it all. I suspect this book will destroy Lebrecht’s credibility as a critic/judge/executioner once and for all. It certainly should. Thank you.

  12. Emily M.

    As a history of decorative arts grad student, I truly enjoyed your article, “A Victorian Fantasy, in Stone.” I typically notice the sets of period films and television series just as much as the storylines, so it was great to read an article which explained the history of such an evocative house. As you mentioned, the Victorian anti-Classicist romanticization of things Gothic and Elizabethan is manifest in Highclare Castle, which one could easily mistake for a 16th-century creation. Although Gothic and Elizabethan Revival architecture did not resonate as much among Victorian Americans, (they seemed to prefer Gothic furniture to Gothic dwellings), we have do have such grand exceptions as the Smithsonian Castle. As a backdrop to “Downton Abbey,” thank you for shedding light to the viewers of Downton Abbey on a structure which, while not actually built in the sixteenth century, represents the Victorian romanticized view of the time of Shakespeare and “Good Queen Bess.”

  13. Claude Reich


    I read your review in the Washington Post about the current Philip Guston show at the Phillips Collection and it left me rather puzzled. You seem to imply that Guston ran out of gas and you doubt that his shift to the figurative was a revolution. This prompts me to ask you 3 questions:

    According to you, there is “too much of Guston” in those paintings. Yet, didn’t Picasso say that every painting is a self-portrait?

    How does the obvious formal link between his late figurative paintings and the earlier abstract ones precludes his 1970 shift to the figure from being a revolution?

    How many “revolutions” does it take to be a great artist and do you expect an artist to constantly renew himself (if my understanding of the last lines of your review is correct)?

  14. Tony Deacon

    Dear Philip,
    I’ve just read your sensitive appreciation of the late John Steane in the June 2011 issue of Gramophone magazine. You say that you may not ever have met him and that this was probably a good thing, since you prefer to retain your imagined view of him. Actually, I don’t think you would have been disappointed.

    It was my good fortune to be educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, where -even though I had chosen to pursue sciences- I was taught English by JBS for a year. This would have been about 1969/70.

    John Steane was a very nice man, whose lessons were always lively and interesting. He threw himself into the cultural life of the school, playing the organ on occasion and usually directing any school play. He had a puckish energy about him and a good rapport with schoolboys. Even for a Philistine scientist, his was undoubtedly a civilizing influence.

  15. Steve Sigelman

    Good morning,
    Your essay in the 11/21 Post re UC Davis and the use of pepper spray was excellent. It is somewhat of a rare pleasure to read a well-thought out and well written article in the Post. Like others who commented on your page, I look forward to following your articles.

    Much thanks
    Steve S

  16. Dannyaprosody

    October 27, 2011 at 9:03 am
    Dear advocate of the general public, readjuster of legends and grammarian,
    in Gertrude Stein´s texts, it is all there: the holocaust, the devil, the dictators and Sodom and Gomorrah, the Marechal (“I Philippe Pétain”) and one favourable portrait of a newspaperman (Joe the Loiterer). I assume that not all newspapermen who have since then spoken for or of the general public have been able to notice this. This of course often made them ideal followers of those who do not seem to notice these things outside of literature. Yet I suspect that some Dartmouth professors (who may have turned into geniusses in their own right), some newspapermen (of those in advance of the general public), and Pound, Céline and De Man (who, intellectually, can only be located diametrically opposite of Stein) would underwrite the exclamation “Pity the poor persecutor”. Perhaps you don´t understand it. But then, why should you? The line does not read: “Pity the poor defamer”. Presumably, this would not have interested Gertrude Stein, who was humiliated by newspapermen often enough to let it go.
    To make this very clear: Someone like you, who, allegedly neither considerably ahead nor behind of what the “general public” usually does or is manipulated to do, has not even taken the time to read Stein´s books and speaks about her literature and moral behaviour for the general public. Many people who have to say something about the texts now will have to take much more pains to offer their insights to those whom you follow in advance. Gertrude Stein, in several works, unmasked that part of human behaviour characteristic of the appeasement process as following in advance (an insight after which she never used the word peace in positive connotation again), and you very well see how ´appeasement´ usually looks like when you look at what you have written here. As for the general public, it actually does not even exist. Whom you follow at the moment, is obvious enough.
    G. Read

    someone deleted my comment, but – here it is again!

  17. Dear Philip, I’m late in telling you how much I loved your review of the National Building Museum’s House and Home display. Your views on the ambivalence of homeownership were incredibly insightful and well-written. I am still mulling over the concepts of monads and the idea of stability vs. burden. Thank you for providing such rich food for thought. I have the article clipped and highlighted for future musings.
    Amy Suardi

  18. Charles

    Your commentary on the Obama Hug was the most pathetic piece of crap I have EVER read.
    If only I could have back the draining, mind numbing totally wasted seconds it took to read your miserable Obama ass kissing trash article.

  19. Mary

    Thank you so much for your August 29, 2010, article about the viral “Bed Intruder Song” video and your argument for decency.

  20. John Holley

    When my wife and I first read your piece on the Durer show at the Natl. Gallery, we were preparing for her hip replacement surgery, which was scheduled for a few days later. I tucked the article away in my phone and momentarily forgot about it. Tuesday my wife took up her crutches and we braved the Metro and the hordes of blossom seekers to see that show. Re-reading the article just prior to seeing the show added tremendous value to the experience. But for your appreciation of the show, we might not have seen it at all, and certainly would not have seen it through your eyes. Thank you for that gift.

  21. Bob Dubinsky

    Your reporting on the Corcoran has been very informative and comprehensive. Thanks.
    However, I still don’t understand why the Board which has: acted fiscally irresponsibly; failed to do its job in raising funds and not added Washington’s major donors/collectors to the Board has not seen fit or been asked to resign.

  22. Dear Philip,

    Congratulations on your Pulitzer which I learned of from the Deep Springs monthly email! And it was a pleasure to read your review of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition (my portrait of Jessica Wickham was the winner). Hope to meet you in person sometime.

    All best,

    Bo Gehring

  23. Thomas Zabiega

    About article in The New Republic. Excellent article. Problem: More outreach to kids. Kid concerts by Chicago O. often use slow, boring pieces. But then for regular concerts of Beethoven, etc, they don’t allow kids under 8. So my 6 yo son has seen 2 operas/no concerts, no future with this policy

  24. Phil
    Your article on the state of Orchestras (In August: New Republic) was very informative. It is quite serendipitous that I found it after attending a concert at Chicago’s Symphony hall. Your article inspired me to send a letter to the CSO:

    Twenty Years Later – An observation of an Orchestra
    After a visit to a Symphony Center event produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this past Friday, it is clear that after twenty years the orchestras’ culture has not changed as it relates to including a diverse clientele into the fabric of the orchestras communal family. It is appalling that nothing has changed and that the same old funding driven; “let’s do something for the second class community” attitude still exists.

    But first let me explain…
    On Oct 7th, 1993 I visited Orchestra Hall in Chicago to hear Shulamit Ran’s “Legends for Orchestra. After the concert I wrote an Op Ed (Opinion Editorial) that was published in the Chicago Sun Times (November 25,1993) and excerpted in the Christian Science Monitor (November 22, 1993), which criticized the Symphony’s lack of sensitivity to the Black music community by only displaying the image of a black man (in their playbill) as homeless and apparently helpless.

    At the time and in the piece, I challenged the orchestra to start a cultural metamorphosis that might engage the black community through a systemic inclusiveness approach.

    I received a letter from the then president of the CSO, Henry Fogel. He asked to meet and discuss my concerns directly. Interestingly we met at Orchestra Hall in the members’ only top floor restaurant complete with black servers in porter uniforms and white gloves… I knew then that the sincerity of substantive dialog was to be suspect… but we met and discussed…

    Through this meeting and I am sure meetings with other music constituents the Chicago Symphony embarked on a campaign for change as it relates to cultural diversity. It is obvious that they have been trying to find their way ever since.

    Though the CSO has created many programs over the years that presumable makes a difference and from their viewpoint is (was successful). I would disagree solely based on my experience Friday October 11th , 2013 (20 years later) at Symphony Center.

    I attended a performance by the legendary Herbie Hancock . My good friend, fellow Berklee alumni and drummer in my “Kimotion” ensemble Vinnie Colauita, was performing with Herbie so I decided to purchase a seat with a direct view to my friend. So I bought an expensive seat in Box A stage left.

    The show was awesome and I was truly enjoying the musical experience. Half way through the show Herbie presented a solo work that he performed on acoustic piano, synthesizer and voice. It was one of the most moving works I have experienced in a long time. Specifically, the sonorities and gradations of dynamics and lyrical content, brought me to a near trace as I thought back (I don’t know why) to a moment in Vietnam 1970 when I was on guard duty in a lonely bunker in the jungle and thinking about how much I wanted to go home… I closed my eyes and fell deeper into this experience as Herbie took his composition to the quietest pianissimo possible for such a large hall, I really…….. SQEEEEEK!!!!!!!!……. that is the sound of the balcony door opening directly behind me as two people came through a door to go to the restroom (I suppose). After this disruption, I tried to get back into this special mood and I think I was heading there and…….. SQEEEEEKK!!!……. they returned from the restroom (with an apology to me….. and then….. Sqeeeeeeekkkkk!…….. someone else (who must have seen them come through this door), came in as they were returning….. this went on for the rest of the concert.

    Here is why I say nothing has changed for the CSO…. an usher asked me “did you enjoyed the concert? I said to him “you might want to consider putting some oil on the door as it squeaks when it opens”. His response “no need to do that as this door is not supposed to be used”. I then said, “but it IS used and when some one comes through it, it is very distracting”. His response, “Well, our regular clientele knows not to use this door so there is no need to oil it”. With that obvious non-connected to customer relations attitude, I left and met Vinnie out front.

    It is obvious from this exchange that the CSO (specifically the culture of the CSO) is still deeply entrenched in their noninclusive mentality.

    The audience that attended this concert was the patronized jazz at Symphony Center crowd and not the “normal” crowd who, according to this CSO usher, understands the social etiquette of concert attendance.

    So what to do? In 1995 I produced and moderated a symposium at Columbia College Chicago titled, “The Evolving Symphony Orchestra”. The panelist included Henry Fogel, then president of the CSO, Tania Leon, recognized Cuban female composer/ conductor, Hale Smith, black composer, Young Yan Hu, Chinese conductor and Joan Harris a major donor to the CSO.

    During this panel I presented a paper titled “The Evolving Symphony Orchestra
    – Creating an Atmosphere of Inclusiveness Within a Multi-Cultural Environment”
    (http://kimowilliams.com/pp/inclusiveness.html) . Each panelist understood and agreed in many respects to premise of my paper.

    It is obvious to me that we as a culture specific to music, need to accept that we are culturally diverse and should allow and embrace this musical separation. The CSO as well all classical predominant symphonies should cater to their audience (financial patrons who want a social exclusive experience) and put all of their resources to catering to that clientele.

    We should stop trying to force these elitist arts organizations to develop programs and activities that they only do if they receive grants from the government (tax payers) or from corporations who have philanthropic ideas that are not based in reality. Many of these corporations truly see them selves as saviors of the community.

    It is not working.

    However they see their impact, these corporate dollars come with a caveat…you must show their brand… Education Program Sponsored by AT&T etc…

    I say it is time to stop pretending to be inclusive and develop realistic approaches that impacts on the cultural community without the patronizing Jazz series or bringing in Mexican popular bands, or Peter and Wolf for a family night etc., for the one off cultural engagement. These presentations do not and have not shown to be successful in developing significant new audiences.

    When we talk about inclusiveness and bringing all the different ethnicities together, the art leaders in every major city fall short because they are trying to engage the audience by educating them about “them” (during black history month they showcase black composers to the black community). The financial patrons, those societal elitists, will not attend these concerts and yet from my perspective, they are the ones who need to be educated about black composers and other diverse communities.

    Here is my suggestion; orchestras must come to the realization that they cannot engage a community into a music that the community has no interest in. No matter how much we educate them, or talk about the many ethnicities that have contributed to classical music. Some one who loves Rap music will not want to go to a country music concert just to become one with the country community. So we do not even try to mix the two.

    We should take this dichotomy serious with classical music as well and stop trying to treat it as if it is a marketable product that can be sold to an audience that is not asking. Demand has always driven the market even if it is a manufactured demand.

    Arts organizations should cater to their base audience. If the issue is finances and they need to generate more revenue, then they should say that and not mask it as their “jazz series”, “lite series” “family concerts”, concerts in the community, or in the schools etc…. which is a guise for the infusing of additional dollars to support their base mission- traditional classical music.

    Once orchestras embrace this honestly I think they will find that they then can substantively start to develop and cultivate a diverse audience that champions the mission of the orchestra regardless of the program content.

  25. Pingback: Friday Faves – Vol. 6 | HappeningsCLT

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