Contact: Susan C. Larsen, Ph.D., Executive Director

Office: 207-536-1686


Portland, Maine, April 9, 2019—Our first Lifetime Achievement Award goes to
Roberta Smith, Co-Chief Art Critic of the New York Times. The breadth of Roberta
Smith’s inquiry and her impartial, accessible style has won her a loyal national readership. This award comes with a prize of $50,000 which, according to New York Times guidelines, Roberta Smith has donated to a charitable non-profit. Ms. Smith has chosen to give her prize to the Art for Justice Fund, which is dedicated to combating the injustices of mass incarceration through the collective action of artists, advocates and philanthropists.

In a recent interview, Roberta Smith described her career as one devoted to“responsibility and loyalty to the readers.” She stressed the importance of integrity and credibility to build a long career as a working art critic. Since joining the New York Times in 1991, she has written on every aspect of contemporary art, design, folk and outsider art, photography and much more. Roberta Smith has been responsible for building an audience for the art of the self-taught, for ceramic art, video art, digital art, systems of re-presentation and much more. Across many traditional boundaries, she has offered a frank, lovingly detailed assessment of new art and artists to her expansive readership. Hers is a voice listened to by millions of readers. Yet she also encourages her audiences to come to their own conclusions and expand their cultural vocabularies. On many occasions she said, humorously, that her goal was to “Get people out of the house to look at art.”

The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation, headquartered in Portland, Maine, gives annual prizes to eight visual art journalists from across the country. This is the first time the foundation has given a Lifetime Achievement Award. Leo Rabkin was an artist who worked and exhibited in New York City for sixty years. His wife, Dorothea, joined with Leo to create a landmark collection of American folk and outsider art. They lived in New York City and had a wide circle of friends including artists, writers and curators. It was Leo’s wish that thefoundation assist art journalists who play a vital role in the art community nationwide.

Trustees of the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation are: Edgar Allen Beem, Brunswick, Maine (arts journalist, political columnist); Deborah Irmas, Los Angeles, California (writer, art historian, philanthropist); Nancy Karlins Thoman, Ph.D., New York (art historian, journalist). Susan C. Larsen, Ph.D., (art historian, curator) is executive director.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Danielle Frye, Executive Assistant,

Danielle Frye