in Features | 07 JUN 06
Featured in
Issue 100

Periodical Tables (Part 1)

In 1976 the British art journal Studio International conducted a survey of contemporary art magazines to see what could be revealed about their inner workings and motivations. How do art magazines perceive themselves today? Are the questions that were posed 30 years ago still relevant in 2006? To find out, frieze asked 31 publications to respond to the Studio International questionnaire. Introduction byRichard Cork, the editor behind the original survey

in Features | 07 JUN 06

When I edited the Studio International issue on art magazines in 1976, upheaval was everywhere. Diehard defenders of painting’s supremacy were still angrily opposed to the radical new developments transforming all our ideas about what art might be. Later, looking back on this tumultuous decade, I gave my book of writings on art in the 1970s the title Everything Seemed Possible. It was a hugely exciting period, driven in most areas by the desire to open up, demystify and enlarge our awareness of art in all its manifestations. Magazines, I believed, needed to question themselves more closely and become more willing to reveal how and why they operated. So I was delighted when so many of them responded to Studio’s questionnaire, casting off secrecy and disclosing a great deal about their owners, income sources, conditions of work, overall aims, anxieties and hopes for the future.

Thirty years on, the art scene is far less fiercely divided. Most of the magazines who have replied to frieze seem committed to openness in their response to new art. More and more national barriers are being demolished: Art in America proudly claim that ‘we’ve become global’ and are now ‘paying a lot of attention to Asia – especially China’. But some magazines remain unapologetic about their concentration on particular geographical territories. Art & Australia admits that its ‘main focus is on Australian art’, and ArtNexus declares that ‘we cover Latin and Latin American artists wherever they are.’ As for Revue Noire, they deal with ‘Africa and all the preconceived ideas people have of the continent’, while Springerin’s scope comprises ‘the art-worlds of former Eastern Europe as well as so-called marginal or Third World territories’.

Few want to be confined in scope to a single country or continent. Nor do they identify themselves with a particular direction in art. Springerin ‘tries to focus on art production that is socially and politically relevant’. But far more typical is Border Crossing’s belief in keeping ‘the magazine open to every new development while remaining vigilant not to embrace trends and currency for the sake of novelty’. Amen to that, and yet Metropolis M is perhaps more frank about the inevitability of bias by admitting that ‘maybe every magazine is partisan and maybe every magazine tries to rise above it’.

What about the influence of regular advertisers and the market? Art Review confesses that it is ‘less than my sales people like, more than the editors want’. But most magazines do not regard this influence as a problem. Some are small-circulation, non-profit concerns, and rejoice in their editorial independence. The price to be paid, though, hits staff and contributors alike. Frog pays nobody: ‘till now, people write for free’. But as I read through these submissions, an alarming picture emerges of low pay even if you write for a big magazine. art press’s print run is 50,000, and yet they pay wretchedly (between 17 and 20 Euros for one typed page). As a critic myself, I ended up wondering how anyone without a salary or a trust fund can possibly afford to write for art magazines at all.

Richard Cork is an art critic, historian, broadcaster and curator living in London. His most recent publication is Four Works, a collection of his writings on modern art, published by Yale.

These are the questions asked by Studio International in 1976 in their ‘Survey of Contemporary Art Magazines’:

1     Who owns you, and to what extent are the owner’s artistic/financial/political interests reflected in your magazine?

2     What are your sources of income, and do they give you a profit or a loss?

3     How many members of staff do you employ?

4     How many copies of each issue do you print, what is the cover price and what is the average budget per issue?

5     What is your scale of payment for writers?

6     How important is the physical ‘look’ of your magazine – the quality of paper, number of illustrations, standard of design etc?

7     What audience do you aim at, and would you be content to communicate only with a specialised ‘art’ audience?

8     Which is your first priority – art criticism or art information?

9     Are you international or national in your scope, and why?

10   Do you support a partisan area of art activity, or remain open to every new development?

11   Are you happy about the influence that art magazines exert on the development of contemporary art?

12   To what extent do you consider your magazine is shaped by (a) your regular advertisers and (b) the power of the market?

Country UK/USA
Founded 1999
Editors Charles Esche, Thomas Lawson, Mark Lewis

1     Afterall is co-published by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM) and CalArts. There is no owner, but an agreement between both institutions to publish the journal under the direction of three editors, two associated with CSM (Charles Esche and Mark Lewis) and one with CalArts (Thomas Lawson)
2     Core funding for the journal comes from CSM and CalArts. Additional funding from the Arts Council of England, the Warhol Foundation and private donations. There is also revenue from subscriptions, news-stand sales and advertising. Afterall is a non-profit venture, so it runs at a loss.
3     Besides its three editors, a part-time staff of three in the UK and two in the US. None of these positions are wholly dedicated to the journal (Afterall also publishes books).
4     4,000. The retail price £10/$16/€14. Production costs for a single issue amount to around £15,000
5     £250 for 2,000–2,500-word essays, and £400 for 3,500–4,000-word essays.
6     A key aim of Afterall is to offer rich and accurate illustration of the artwork under discussion, therefore the number, size and quality of images is very important. The design and all related material is intended to be clear, in order not to interfere with images of the artwork. It includes our own font.
7     Art professionals, including artists, curators, gallerists, writers and students.
8     To support singular practices through critical assessment, analysis and contextualization. Information is not part of the project.
9     Afterall is published by two institutions on two continents, and its editors are based in three different countries (UK, US and The Netherlands). This geographical mix combines local and international outlooks.
10     In principle we are interested in every new development in contemporary art, as well as re-evaluating art or events of the past.
11     Art magazines don’t seem to exert much influence on art’s development at the moment. Where they do, the influence is sometimes positive, sometimes not.
12     Afterall’s editorial choices are not affected at all by advertising issues or any other commercial aspect.

Pablo Lafuente, Managing Editor

Art + Auction
Country USA
Founded 1980
Editor Bruce Wolmer

1     Art + Auction is owned by Louise T Blouin MacBain and her company LTB Media. Except for the occasional recommendation the magazine’s focus is its own and has been relatively consistent.
2     Art + Auction has been making a good profit this year.
3     In editorial: an art director, a photo editor, seven editors and a copy editor.
4     $10 cover price. $80 subscription. Overall circulation is around 24,000. Editorial costs about $18,000.
5     $1 per word.
6     Very important.
7     Art world professionals and high-end collectors. A sophisticated rather than general audience.
8     Art information.
9     International.
10     We remain open.
11     I’m not sure how much influence they have. Newspapers seem to have more. Anyway, the more commentary the merrier.
12     To some extent, though I don’t really know how much. Can’t measure, but both are factors.

Barbara Macadam, Executive Editor

Art AsiaPacific
Country USA
Founded 1993
Editor Elaine W. Ng

1     Art AsiaPacific LLC, a New York company that is jointly owned by the partners Simon Winchester and Elaine W. Ng; the owners’ artistic and political interests are inevitably reflected in the magazine. Our financial interests however, are not.
2     Advertising and subscriptions. We survive, and can eat.
3     About 25, all freelance, a small proportion full-time.
4     $12, and $20 for the Almanac.
5     Adequate, and tailored to the contentment of both payers and payees.
6     Its design, look, feel and style are all crucially important.
7     Since we strive to write in clear English, and deplore art-speak as we have little or no interest in appealing to the more precious end of the artistic community. We believe our readers to be intelligent, creative, cool in the best sense of the word, and broad-minded.
8     The question suggests that these are the only criteria that matter, when clearly there are many other kinds of contributions – ruminations, reflections, interviews, essays, reminiscences – that go to make a readable and interesting magazine; but were I to put those two aspects you mention into some kind of order, I would place information above criticism, every time.
9     We hope we are global in our appeal (and our subscription list suggests that we are). Our title and our subtitle – Today’s Art from Tomorrow’s World – suggests why.
10     Like art itself, we are open to all.
11     I doubt if many good, confident and true artists care one whit about what is written art magazines.
12     None whatsoever.

Elaine W. Ng, Editor and Publisher

Art in America
Country USA
Founded 1913
Editor Elisabeth C. Baker

1     Art in America is owned by Brant Publications, along with the magazines Antiques and Interview. Art in America’s editorial content is independent.
2     Circulation and advertising. Both are profitable.
3     In addition to the publisher, who manages all three magazines, Art in America has an editorial staff of about ten, most of them full-time; an art director and assistant designer; an advertising manager and several advertising sales representatives; a production manager and assistant; and a circulation director and assistant. Administrative functions are shared with the two other magazines.
4     Our total paid circulation as of the December 2005 ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) Publisher’s Statement is 74,509. Our cover price is $5.
5     Payment is determined according to length and other variables.
6     Design, colour quality and paper quality are all vitally important.
7     The specialized art audience is much larger today than it used to be. We aim to meet the needs and interests of that audience, and to reach a wider, but nevertheless informed, public.
8     Much of what we publish would generally be considered criticism and/or art history. We also review exhibitions and books, run some straight factual sections, discuss political, economic and other issues, etc.
9     Despite our name, Art in America has covered a broad range of international art since 1970 – at that time, mainly Latin America and Europe. In recent years, we’ve become global, as is the contemporary art world. We were one of the first publications to cover the emergence of unofficial art in the Soviet Union, and are now paying a lot of attention to Asia – especially China.
10     We keep our eyes open, but ‘every new development’ is asking a lot!
11     We remain sceptical about the influence of art magazines. Artists necessarily take the lead in art’s development. This is not to downplay the critic’s role. As vehicles for criticism and history, magazines play a crucial part in the exchange of ideas, the transmission of images and the documentation of art activity. There are many competing factors – proliferating biennials, art fairs, independent curators, collectors active in the contemporary field, huge vitality in the commercial sector (many galleries furnishing the kind of small museum-quality shows that fewer museums seem to produce these days), hot art schools, the internet – all helping to keep the pot boiling. As magazines now take their place in this expanded context, they also must examine a changed terrain.
12     We edit for our readers.

Elizabeth C. Baker, Editor

Art & Australia
Country Australia
Founded 1963
Editor Claire Armstrong

1     Art & Australia has been owned by its Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Eleonora Triguboff, since early 2003. Eleonora is the guiding influence for the content and look of Art & Australia, but her financial and political interests are not reflected in the magazine.
2     Magazine sales, subscriptions and advertising. We make a small profit.
3     Nine, ranging across editorial, design, marketing, advertising and administration.
4     15,000 copies at a cover price of AUD $20. The budget varies from issue to issue.
5     AUD $0.50 per word.
6     Art & Australia has long been known for its high production and design values. The look is as important to us as the quality of the writing in the magazine.
7     A broad readership, ranging from specialists to a more general audience. The content of the magazine reflects this. Art & Australia covers contemporary and more historical art, Indigenous and non-Indigenous art, Australian and international art, as well as scholarly essays, market reports, collector profiles, exhibition and book reviews and tributes/obituaries.
8     Criticism is our first priority given that Art & Australia is a magazine of record. However, providing information is also important.
9     Our main focus is on Australian art, but the magazine also features regular coverage of artists and exhibitions internationally. We believe strongly that Australian art cannot be considered in isolation.
10     We are open to new developments that merit discussion or consideration. For example, Art & Australia has recently been active in publishing essays on new Australian work in video installation.
11     We see Art & Australia as part of a wider network of influence on contemporary art. While coverage in a magazine is extremely beneficial for the development of an artist’s career, so too is their inclusion in other publications (e.g. books or catalogues) as well as national and international exhibitions.
12     Art & Australia has always maintained a division between editorial and advertising. The content of the magazine is not shaped by regular advertisers, but rather by the publisher and editorial staff, as well as an independent editorial advisory board. However, as a privately owned magazine that receives no government funding, it is dependent on the market in terms of magazine sales and subscriptions.

Claire Armstrong, Editor

Art Monthly
Country UK
Founded 1976
Editor Patricia Bickers

1     Britannia Art Publications Ltd. The publishers, Jack and Nell Wendler, were co-founders of Art Monthly and have from the outset been supportive while maintaining a strictly hands-off policy towards editorial matters.
2     Advertising, news-stand sales, subscriptions and an annual Arts Council of England grant. Art Monthly is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, which speaks for itself.
3     All staff are self-employed.
4     5,000 copies at £3.90. The budget is calculated on an annual basis for ten issues.
5     Art Monthly pays £100 per 750 word review; £125 for 1,000 words and so on, plus minimum travel expenses.
6     The design, like the writing published in Art Monthly, is distinctive for its clarity and readability.
7     Though Art Monthly values readablility, its content is not directed at the general reader.
8     Art criticism.
9     Art Monthly offers coverage of British and international art.
10     No magazine can survive by trying to cover everything, nor can it survive by being entirely partisan.
11     Yes.
12     Advertising and editorial are kept strictly separate. Art Monthly comments on the market in its regular salerooms column, but is not market-driven.

Patricia Bickers, Editor