Looks like someone drew laundry duty — Ben Genocchio, the husband of Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu, was recently called out on the online reference site for scrubbing citations of his wife’s controversies heading the Washington institution.
Genocchio, an art critic and editor-in-chief of Artnet.com, made edits earlier this month to his wife’s entry in the user-generated online encyclopedia, wiping out mentions of decisions that created waves in Washington’s art circles, including hiring a New York-based curator and holding the museum’s anniversary gala in Manhattan.
Those changes didn’t sit well with some users. Wikipedia content is user-generated, but conflicts of interest are verboten. Users reported his edits as suspect, and “bgenocchio” and a related account “1artlovernewyork” are now identified as likely being connected to the subject, and thus “strongly advised” to stop messing with it.
According to Wikipedia records, on Sept. 6, “bgenocchio” eliminated the following passage from Chiu’s page: “Following her 2014 appointment as the first non-American to head the Hirshhorn, Chiu announced for the hiring of New York-based Gianni Jetzer as curator-at-large. Jetzer was allowed to maintain his position as a curator for Art Basel, despite the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
He also nixed this bit of Chiu news from the entry: “In August 2015, Chiu announced that the museum’s 40th anniversary celebration would be held at 4 World Trade Center in New York. The Washington Post commented that the decision was ‘deeply troubling and raises concern about where Chiu is taking the organization.'”
But Genocchio wasn’t only about the delete button. On Sept. 6, he added a glowing note of praise to his wife’s page. “In announcing the appointment, the New York Times noted Dr. Chiu’s ability as a prodigious fundraiser and her standing in the international museum community,” he wrote.
A Hirshhorn spokeswoman had no comment on the matter, though it looks like things may be on their way to getting smoothed out. A Wikipedia user who often edits art entries posted on a subpage devoted to the editing process that she had been in touch with Hirshhorn staff about the violations of Wiki policy.
“I’ve been talking with other Smithsonian and Hirshhorn staff to try and increase their awareness of about how to contribute in a way that maintains NPOV [neutral point of view] and avoids COI [conflicts of interest]; I think you can expect them to make some edit requests and suggest reliable sources here in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully, in the end, we all learn something, and we end up with a high-quality biography of the director of one of D.C.’s most important museums.”
Genocchio seems to have an affinity for Wikipedia — when he was an art critic for the New York Times, he admitted to having “echoed some of the language” from an entry on architect Eero Saarinen in a 2010 review.