Michael Kimmelman is an author, critic, columnist and pianist. He is the architecture critic for The New York Times and has written on issues of public housing, public space, community development and social responsibility. He was the paper’s longtime chief art critic and, in 2007, created the Abroad column, as a foreign correspondent covering culture, political and social affairs across Europe and elsewhere. In late summer, 2011, the Times appointed him architecture critic and also made him the paper’s senior critic. He returned to New York from Europe in autumn, 2011, and his articles since then have begun to reshape the public debate about urbanism, architecture and architectural criticism.
He was born and raised in Greenwich Village, the son of a physician and civil rights activist. He attended Friends Seminary in Manhattan, graduated summa cum laude from Yale College and received his graduate degree in art history from Harvard University. A concert pianist, who still regularly performs as a soloist and with chamber groups on series in New York and across Europe, he started as a music critic at the paper, then moved into art. A former editor at ID Magazine and architecture critic for New England Monthly, he has written at length about, among others, the artists Richard Serra, Michael Heizer, Lucian Freud, Raymond Pettibon and Matthew Barney along with the architects Shigeru Ban, Peter Zumthor and Oscar Niemeyer. Author of The Accidental Masterpiece, he has hosted various television features, appearing in the 2007 documentary film My Kid Could Paint That.
From fall 2007 into summer 2011 he was based in Berlin covering, among other subjects, the crackdown on cultural freedom in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, life in Gaza under Hamas, the rise of the far-right in Hungary, Négritude in France, bullfighting in contemporary Spain, Czech humor in the context of political protest, and Holocaust education for a new generation of Germans.
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, he also contributes regularly to the New York Review of Books.