Veteran arts journalist Grace Glueck, who helped bring a sex discrimination lawsuit in 1974 that opened the door to the New York Times for women reporters, died Oct. 8 at her Manhattan home at the age of ninety-six. Glueck was known for her witty, revealing, and seemingly effortless writing about art, which peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the city’s art scene exploded. Bringing the eye of a journalist, rather than that of a critic, to his stories, Glueck, over a career that spanned sixty years, set a standard for artistic writing in the New York Times which elevated the subject to essential status and inspired newspapers across the country to start covering the subject themselves.
Grace Glueck was born on July 24, 1926 in New York and grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. She got her BA from New York University — then largely a suburban school and not the block-swallowing juggernaut she would later become — where she served as editor of The apprentice, the school’s literary magazine. After graduating in 1948, she undertook a short stint in a travel magazine. She started working for the Time in 1951, as a copycat, after a man who interviewed her for the job scrawled the phrase “attractive brunette” on her application, according to the registration paper. Two years later, she took a job as an image researcher at the New York Book Review. In 1963, after offering to illustrate an article on Nabokov’s work lolita along with one of Balthus’s nymphets, she received a Sunday art column and thus became an anomaly at the newspaper, where women were usually relegated to clerical and secretarial roles.
Art People, as his column was known, combined current affairs reports with long interviews and short gossip pieces, and quickly caught the attention of the editors of the Time‘s Daily News Operation, which hired her as an arts reporter. Glueck began to seriously cover New York’s turbulent art scene, which in the late 1960s and 1970s was marked by the loft movement that radically changed the face of SoHo, and by the ascendancy of Pop Art. alongside Op Art, Minimalism, Happenings, and an insurgent feminist art movement.
In his new functions, Glueck, who at the time of his retirement would write more than three thousand articles for the Time, has written about or interviewed hundreds of artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O’Keefe, Phillip Pearlstein and Andy Warhol. In 1969, Time publisher Arthur Sulzberger published a list of editorial promotions that did not include any women. Glueck wrote to Sulzberger, demanding to know why. No satisfactory answer was offered, and five years later, eight women working for the publication filed what Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Center for Oral History Research at Columbia University, would later describe as “the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in the United States. journalism”, accusing Time of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the remark of the “attractive brunette” was cited as evidence during the preparation for the trial. The suit was set in 1978, with the Time agree to place more women in jobs at all levels and create annuities to pay for lost wages due to delayed career advancement or denied opportunity.
Glueck – who was for a short time cultural editor of the Timebefore abdicating her job in favor of her favorite reporting – retirement in 1991. She wrote two books, worked briefly for The Observerthen returned to the Timefor whom she was a contributor until she was over eighty years old.
Arts journalism for Glueck “really provided a life, and the work was interesting,” she told Sharon Zane, who interviewed her for the Oral History Program at the Museum of Modern Art in 1997. “I loved the work. I loved going out and talking to people, and in all my life I can’t remember looking at the clock and saying, “Thank God it’s time to go home.”