Saturday, July 9, 2011

ARTFORUM Then and Now

As an art student in the early 1970's my favorite magazine was ARTFORUM. The publication resonated with what it meant to be a fine artist, as opposed to the commercial variety. It became a source for ideas about art as well as a catalyst for stimulating emerging artist. And to be hallowed in its pages was no doubt tantamount to full-fledged certification of one's seriousness.

I still have in my possession the May 1974 edition of ARTFORUM. It features a Rene Magritte image on the cover, a detail from The False Mirror. The mag is 82 pages in length and packed with all the revered names. Ads from galleries highlight Frank Stella, Wesselman, Claes Oldenburg, Gorky, Pollock, Miro, Braque, Hockney, Johns, Rauschenberg, etc. And the article features highlight the best of the best.

I kept this particular issue because of a lengthy article titled The Authoritarian Personality In Modern Art. Beginning on page 40 it was filled with revelatory quotes by artists on all manner of topics related to art. Sections include "Art as Cosmic Recoil from Time" and "The Indifference of Art to the World." The artists quoted include Dali, Warhol, Leger, Malevich and many others.

Fast forward to 2011.

With a bit of Father's Day kindness from my son I received a Barnes & Noble Gift Card with which I purchased the The Witmark Demos, Dylan Bootleg Series #9. To mop up the rest of my allotted cash I purchased the Summer edition of ARTFORUM International. Still the lightning rod for what is happening in the global art scene, there are some interesting differences between then and now.

The first thing you will notice is the mass and weight. This magazine weighs in at over three pounds, compared to a measly 3/4s of a pound in 1974. 440 glossy pages of color and content, compared to 82 tells you a lot about the art world today. It's the color of money.

Art is big business today. Despite the grinding poverty that engulfs much of the world, there is clearly more wealth today than any time in human history. The rich have bigger homes and more homes than they know what to do with. And there is a limit to how many boats, cabins, and toys one can possess. So what to do with all this excess? The art galleries and art scene have become a thriving commercial enterprise.

It's hard to believe that Picasso at one time burned some of his paintings simply to keep warm during a cold Paris winter. Even Picasso, one of the three most significant artists of the 20th century, once lived an impoverished life seeking nothing more than enough money for meals, art supplies and a roof over his head.

So ARTFORUM exists to tell us about what is happening in the art scene today. The quantity of happening things is impressive, almost overwhelming.

Look at the ads. Hundreds of ads sprawling over hundreds of pages, the ads themselves works of art. It's a fascinating read, and one worth returning to time and again. If you're into the arts.

Something else strikes me as I consider all this commercial activity. I'm curious what the Dadaists and early Surrealists would think about all this streaming cashflow. Dali was ostracized by his contemporaries because he alone of his contemporaries favored a capitalist culture over socialist idealism.

Another change has taken place since the magazine's 1962 founding. The Internet. And like all publications, an online residence is essential for survival. is rich with content and timely information, including a directory of current exhibitions around the world.

If you own a gallery and are seeking to establish yourself as important, you can choose to advertise in the magazine as in the old days, or advertise online. Here's a an overview of their traffic. It's a pretty good snapshot of who's paying attention to the art scene today.

58% male; 42% female
60% earn $50,000+; 35% earn $100,000+
73% between 25 and 44; 50% between 25 and 34
89% have completed college; 60% have done postgraduate work

81% regularly attend exhibitions and performances
74% attend the latest films
63% travel frequently
55% make art

81% plan to take a vacation
74% eat out regularly
52% will purchase art
51% intend to purchase furniture
48% anticipate making a financial investment
36% will likely visit a spa
34% plan to purchase a computer

1 out of 2 visitors comes several times a week if not every day
70% consider the site essential
84% describe the site as smart
90% are likely to recommend to a friend

If you'd rather buy art supplies than the magazine, bookmark this site and keep your finger on the pulse of the art scene today.

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