The Girl With the Art Magazine

aia1Yesterday was a good day for art journalism. Lindsay Pollock was named editor of the Art in America, opening the way for the rejuvenation of one of our most venerable magazine brands. Like that other old workhorse of the art journalism trade, ArtNews, the 98 year-old Art in America has lost its way of late, as the worlds of art and journalism transmogrified around it.

I’ve been lucky to follow Lindsay Pollock’s career since when she was working on her biography of the art dealer Edith Gregor Halpert, which later appeared as a book titled The Girl With the Gallery. She has since evolved into an art reporting powerhouse, known to readers through her precise market coverage at Bloomberg and The Art Newspaper, and more recently, at her website, Art Market Views, an increasingly vital source of breaking art-world news. She is fair, informed, a happy peripatetic denizen of the global art scene, but also tough as nails. Her commitment is to a broader dialogue than straight art news. She has a deeper interest in art than what happens at the nexus of pictures and money.

So what now with Art in America? It clearly needs an energy boost. Its detached, ivory-tower approach, where long reviews dutifully appear long after exhibitions have closed, seems like a quaint anachronism. The magazine has a reputation for pulling its punches. Its cautious academism is out of synch with a culture where opinions are supersized. What new leadership can bring to the magazine above all, I think, is a fruitful demolition of the walls that divide scholarly and aesthetic writing, on the one hand, and thoughtful journalistic appraisals of the “dark side” of art as an institutional and – gasp – commercial system.

No one’s better suited to open up those fertile pathways than Lindsay, who sees the life of art as an all-encompassing totality that spans from the artist studio to the scholarly study to the champagne and canapé-besotted halls of Art Basel.

The greatest mistake would be to dilute Art in America’s authority by bloggifying it –though no doubt Lindsay’s digital bona fines will come in handy. We need a magazine of record that sits somewhere between Art News and Artforum. Neither insidery nor too distanced. Neither a sanctum of PhD graduates in art history nor a hive of ink stained journos who cover arts like any other news beat. My hope is for a magazine where the world of art is presented just as the exciting hybrid world that it is, where the best of our cultural legacy intermixes with the most current and occasionally the most mundane, but always the most fascinating, personalities and institutions of contemporary life.

What do you think would be the best for Art in America now?

5 thoughts on “The Girl With the Art Magazine”

  1. If anyone can resuscitate Art in America, it’s Lindsay. The only uncertainty is whether its owner has the resources and willingness to back her adequately. On the latter point, she is as smart as her raw talent requires to cut a sharp, tough deal. Brava!

  2. I think this is an inspired decision (having been an early champion of Lindsay’s intuitive grasp of the digital era of arts reporting). I will watch closely to see, however, the impact of an objective journalist’s point of view on the magazine’s critical voice. One of my earliest editors instilled in me the sense that in criticism it’s more important to have a strong opinion than to be what others would see as “right” or “wrong.”

    As for what’s best for Art in America now, in this, the dawn of the global art world…perhaps a rethink of the title :-) (runs ducking).

  3. Congratulations to Lindsay.

    Not an easy assignment to “resuscitate” AIA or to “reinvent” what an art magazine can be–or what any magazine can be for that matter, which seems to be one of the big media questions at present.

    As for strategies:

    1. foster personalities, bylines that readers look for and follow, regardless of whether they appear online or in print. They have to be smart stylists with strong opinions (pacé Ed), and editors need to cajole, push, provoke, and support them all at the same time. Use them to create a “voice” for the magazine, and then use it.

    2. get reviews out of the print magazine. They need to circulate online. Printing them is anachronistic. Create stylish printer-friendly versions (PDFs, or whatever) that anyone (galleries) can print on their own.

    3. be bold (whatever that might mean).

  4. Yay for Lindsay. From my experiences at Art Review I know how hard it can be to try and drag an ancient magazine title into a new phase, with old readers and advertisers kicking and screaming along the way (although that one still seems to be going great guns).

    But will it be a revolution or an evolution for AiA? As a sometime contributor to Marcia Vetrocq’s time there I appreciated it as a forum where I could write longer articles and get the support Jonathan is talking about.

    The problem surely is going to be to find this new third way for art mags that’s betwixt print and digital, market and criticism, populist and scholarly. You can’t please all of them all of the time, indeed any attempt to do so risks slipping into the neither here-nor-there limbo of Art+Auction or Modern Painters. So, which way will Lindsay turn? An interesting space to watch, no doubt…

  5. Regarding the speed of publishing, I am not so sure that it is a good idea to remove reviews from the print version of the magazine. I appreciate the desire to read about something in real time, and certainly there is a commercial benefit to positive public opinion to a still-open and available exhibition, but isn’t there something strong and very different about an opinion/review that will be published a bit more out of context, and in print? It is one thing to have an opinion about current events and entirely another to write or read about something that happened three to six months before. A different type of self-consciousness and even intelligence perhaps comes from occasionally NOT having the discussion in the moment. Also, let’s not forget that the bulk of Art in America’s audience, and its strength, are people who do not live in geographical vicinity of these open exhibitions, and it could be a disservice to lose sight of that beyond the immediate situation in art capitols. However, I do like the idea to circulate these reviews online, AFTER they appear in the print version.

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