Eric Gibson is the Arts and Leisure editor for the Wall Street Journal. He spoke on campus two weeks ago in a lecture titled “Strange Bed­fellows: The Arts and the Media.” Gibson entered the New York City art scene in 1977, working as an art critic in various capac­ities for 20 years before joining the WSJ staff in 1998.

Is there a spe­cific art form you enjoy most?

Sculpture is my own per­sonal favorite art form. The nice thing about being in the position I am in now is that I am able to pick and choose what I want to write about. When I worked at The Wash­ington Times, I had to write reviews about vir­tually every expo­sition. One day it would be Rem­brandt, next Chinese porcelain, Andy Warhol, and Russian pho­tog­raphy. I enjoyed reviewing those; it was great training. But now that I have this major respon­si­bility of being the editor, I don’t have as much time to write.

When did you become inter­ested in art?

When I was a child, I went with my mother to an expo­sition of sculpture by Henry Moore, and he was one of the greatest 21st century sculptors. It blew me away, and I kept asking her to take me back. She took me back four or five times, and that was beginning of every­thing.

The thing I most like writing about is sculpture; In fact, when I go back to New York, I am cur­rently writing a review on a Gian Lorenzo Bernini expo­sition.

What is the task that art jour­nalists have today?

It is to describe, explain and evaluate. You want to tell people what is out there. I let them know why it is some­thing they should pay attention to, why it is important. Not just in the history of art, but in society as a whole.

One function of arts jour­nalism that is often over­looked is what I call this per­suasive aspect. I don’t mean that you should be hec­toring people or grabbing them by the lapels, but that was one of the first things I dis­covered when I got into news­papers. What I mean by “per­suade” is there are a million things you can do with your spare time, why should you go to a museum?

And that is one of the tasks that our press takes for granted today. As a critic, you need to let people know why the arts are important.

What has been one of your favorite expo­si­tions?

The expo­sition was called Rembrandt/not Rem­brandt. The attri­bu­tions of Rem­brandt have long been in debate. In other words, they gathered a large col­lection of art. Over the years it has been assumed that these pieces of art were Rem­brandts. However, a lot of the time museums thought they had Rem­brandts when in fact they did not. And what the Met­ro­politan did was said we are gonna put all of the art on display that are Rem­brandts, and those that are not. Then it explained what the dif­ference was between each one; it had explanatory texts.

I found it intel­lec­tually sat­is­fying because it was hugely popular, it was some­thing for everyone. The public was fas­ci­nated by the expo­sition.

This to me was a great example of a museum doing some­thing which is inter­esting, serious, and sub­stantial, but also has that popular appeal.

Do you have any advice for stu­dents inter­ested in art history?

The best thing you can do is look at as much as you can yourself. Don’t worry about how much you know or don’t know. Don’t worry about reading up about every detail, just look at as much as you can.

I tell my children that when people go to a museum they gen­erally look at the label first, then they look at the sculpture. You have to resist that because if you walk up to a painting and read the label and see that it is a Rem­brandt, you will look for all the Rem­brandt qual­ities.

However, if you look at the painting first you will be able to notice details on your own. It will be what you have gotten out of looking at that piece of art.