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after the art magazines

Post #376 • September 30, 2004, 9:26 AM • 10 Comments

James Wolcott, quoted by Maud Newton:

If people only knew... how nervous and anxious people in the magazine world are these days. They've been nervous and anxious for three years now. About the ad recession, about where magazines are going, about how formulaic magazines are, that even if you get a good job at a lot of magazines you're just doing junk. The days of triumphalism, when there were big magazine parties with lots of money being thrown around, those days are gone.

Back in the early days of the Miami Art Exchange, we had the good fortune to have as copy editor the person who edited Helen Kohen's work when she wrote for the Herald. This editor held the opinion that print journalism, in which she had worked for two decades, was dead. Not dying - dead. Newspaper content had become a means of separating display ads.

Pick up an art magazine and you will find a similar phenomenon. In my most recent copy of Art in America, nearly fifty pages of ads separate the table of contents and the first iteration of content. And when was the last time you looked at an art magazine and read anything as heartfelt, lucid, and right-headed as the Felix Salmon essay I linked to yesterday? I think one could make a commercially viable product of only slightly inferior quality by putting out an art magazine that consisted entirely of ads.

I now get about 90% of my information about the art world online. I subscribe to no art magazines. I thumb through them at the bookstore, and I buy one if it has something that merits more than a skim. I don't claim to represent the future, but I will say that a nation full of consumers like me would kill the art magazines.

The content online only ever becomes more rich and interesting, and if it replaces the art magazines, I won't miss them. But, well, remember my mentioning that I had gotten involved with Metroblogging? Miami never launched. Metroblogging needs ten writers for any city before they will launch a site for them, they had two from Miami, and they waited and waited for Miami to catch on. Associated Press wrote an article about Metroblogging that got picked up by the Miami Herald. Still no offers. Finally, Orlando launched. Orlando. Metroblogging cities include New York, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, DC, New Orleans, Boston, Tokyo, Istanbul, Vienna, and... Orlando. I conclude that Miami lacks the initiative, brainpower, literacy, digital savvy, and pride of place to make a home for itself on the web. If you, dear reader, live in Miami, congratulations on being an exception. With the future looking the way that it does, we will need each other.

Comment

1.

catfish

September 30, 2004, 4:45 PM

Franklin, I don't want to become your nattering nabob of negativity, yet I must take a small exception to your statement "I think one could make a commercially viable product of only slightly inferior quality by putting out an art magazine that consisted entirely of ads" by saying such a mag might be slightly superior. Splitting a small hair, I know. It would still be not worth the paper it was printed on.

2.

c de v

September 30, 2004, 5:27 PM

Framklin,

While reading the latest artforum, it was hard to distinguish between the "art" photography and the "commercial" photography. They were similar in tone, content format, and image, the only difference was that the "commercial" seemed to convey its meaning more directly.

Then I saw something very depressing, a picture of Rob Pruitt squatting and painting in high heels. The painting was of Paris Hilton and the heels were to "channel her energy", I think I'll go jump out of a window now, see ya...

3.

oldpro

September 30, 2004, 6:07 PM

Hey, c de v, let's hear more from you. That is, if you survive your jump.

Franklin, if blogs are the wave of the future, how can this one be "positioned" to be most competitive? I think you already have a head start because of your clear format and pure "contributor's" approach (most of the others seem to be bullhorns for the resident bloggers). I also think that this medium is intrinsically way more lively and interesting than the art print media, which I gave up reading ages ago, and it is free, immediate, completely democratic and offers a real arena for all opinions to fight it out. Like email and the internet, it is a revolutionary change in information sharing which will be a revolutionary change in the structure of communication. I really regret having to say this, but I think we need a strategy.

4.

Cinque

September 30, 2004, 6:49 PM

Yes, kill the art magazines, indeed!

5.

Franklin

September 30, 2004, 7:04 PM

Oldpro, Item One of the strategy is tomorrow's surprise. Item Two is, well, I have to move to New York.

It's obvious, isn't it? Artblog.net will remain a local phenomenon until I go to New York (got a couch, Barry?), or at least New England, or maybe DC (got a couch, Tyler?) and put myself within a train ride of the center of the art world. I mean, that would cinch it. You talk "positioning" - I think I have to re-position my person.

I'm sorry to bash Miami so much today, but let's face it, this is the provinces. There's good art to be seen and you can't beat the weather, but if I wanted to jump into the thick of things, the national level, I'd have to leave. The other option is to wait for the Big-Ass Museum in the Park to open, hope the situation in Wynwood worsens no further (a lot of eggs in that basket, and it's not a strong basket), sit tight and tough it out in hopes that our non-Art-Basel-moment in the sun will arrive. (One week of freznied activity maketh not a scene.) But what's the time frame on that? A decade? Two?

6.

oldpro

September 30, 2004, 7:25 PM

First of all, quite selfishly, I hope you don't move to NY, not while I am stuck in Miami, at least. But even then anyone can participate on the blog, wherever they are, and I would have some excuse besides laziness and procrastination for not getting out to see all the bad art.

Second, even though Miami really is the sticks, it is getting a big rep. It may be a phony rep, but it will help get people to tune in to the blog.

Third, to the extent that we can look at stuff on the net, and work around the lack of first-hand reviews (which is what we do pretty much anyway) we can establish the blog as a base for common-sense, open, reasonable, intelligent discourse on a high (as possible) level. That ought to get readers and raise the prestige of the blog.

In other words, by "strategy" - short of you moving - I meant ways to get the blog out in front of as many people as possible so it gets read and evaluated and becomes a real force in the culture wars. I don't know what this strategy would be, but I think it is worthwhile bringing it up..

7.

catfish

October 1, 2004, 12:29 AM

Franklin, why would you move from one province (Miami) to another (NYC)?

8.

shaolin soccer mom

October 1, 2004, 5:54 AM

I don't know when the Metroblogging thing was being discussed . . . but damn, that IS pretty pathetic. Maybe I should enlist . . .

In regards to the blogin' vs. traditional media, I think you guys are all a little too sure of your ability to predict the future. It's impossible. The only model we can look to, I think, is the model of politics. There are LOTS of pretty darned successful politics blogs, and they do not seem to be threatening the traditional politics media one bit. In fact, they feed off of it, reference it, and comment on it continuously.

I subscribe to Artforum. I spend a lot more time looking at art-related stuff on the internet then I spend reading Artforum, yet I get more from the magazine then I get from the internet. The reasons for that are worth discussing, I think.

9.

that guy in the back row

October 1, 2004, 9:03 AM

Art Forum.. give me a break, thats just a cover to cover dung collection. link us to one decent image in there and I'll give it another chance.

Art mags are dying.

Good point catfish. Art mags would be better if they were 100% ads. On average the ads have larger reproductions and better images. Of course that makes some sense, because you'd hope that the galleries doing better were showing the better work. (if art markets behaved like normal markets anyway, which they don't most of the time.) The galleries that usually get reviewed have thumbnail size reproductions and a text which is mostly unreadable and dull.

We are on a roll this week, boycott public art, boycott art magazines, and Franklins got a new bag to launch soon.

Now lets all boycott MAM until they give Franklin a show already! They are trying to up their attendance figures right? Heres an idea.. show some art for a change.

10.

Franklin

October 1, 2004, 4:49 PM

Touchee, Catfish. But the sovereign province of New York continues to serve as the center of reputation in this counrty's art world.

SSM, I don't think blogging will replace magazines. But blogging is becoming increasingly robust and the magazines are imploding. Not just art magazines - all of them, as Wolcott points out. The big difference between the politics blogs and the art blogs is that Big Media has recognized the politics blogs and it interacts with them. Not so for the art blogs. I suspect denial.

Another big difference: politics has a huge presence in newspapers, radio, tv, and magazines. Art has a noticiable presence in magazines, and a minor presence in newspapers. Art blogging doesn't have as much to go up against in the traditional media. It will be interesting to see the impact.

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