Wednesday, October 25, 2006

End of the Beginning?

“I think a single sentence by Van Gogh is better than the whole work of all the art critics and art historians put together.” – John Olsen (Australian Artist)

In 2004, a great art periodical ended.

The New Art Examiner, the feisty Chicago-based monthly edited by Kathryn Hixon, was founded in the mid-1970s to provide much-needed coverage of a regional art scene. And like Art Papers, in the 1980s the Examiner developed into the unique hybrid that it is today: a national art magazine with a focus on regional artists and institutions. Despite the regular presence of commercial advertising, both magazines continue to receive significant support from various state and city arts councils, and from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). (In fact, they are two of only a handful of visual arts magazines to receive NEA funding after the agency's restructuring in 1995). Art Papers and the Examiner are presumably able to attract public funding because they cover artists who are seldom discussed in more commercial and New York City-based art magazines like Art in America and Artforum. If their review sections and funding sources ground Art Papers and the Examiner in their respective regions, then the special-issue format opens their feature pages to global issues such as feminism, supply-side aesthetics, the future of alternative spaces, youth culture and higher education. Being able to situate themselves within both "the local" and "the global" is, I think, the genius of the new Art Papers and the New Art Examiner. – Afterimage, Michael Starenko (1998)

New Art Examiner is long gone and Ms. Hixon has moved on to greener pastures; from what I have been able to piece together from online searches – it primarily involves freelancing her critic services as an essayist. In its heyday her magazine covered a unique sort of taboo in the art world - the truth. I’ll never forget the series of articles dedicated to “uncovering” the true nature of MFA programs across the nation; it likened them to a pyramid-scheme – a more succinct description has never before or after been more accurate (or seen in print).

New Art Examiner was a non-profit Midwest arts magazine based in Chicago. Non-profits are not that common in the cutthroat magazine market – and good ones are even rarer. Lasting from 1973 till its demise in 2004 (due to financial failures is my understanding); in addition to my annual subscription, I had a brief personal interaction with the journal. At my request, the magazine’s final editor, Kathryn Hixon, served as juror/curator for an international exhibition at the gallery I oversaw in 1999. Armed with the only bribe my own non-profit organization could muster, I mailed her a carousel of 300 slides, a check for $200 and a two-pound bag of M&M’s. She was exceedingly gracious and timely in her acceptance.

The art world seems somewhat empty with out my favorite periodical and its critics that strived for actual journalistic integrity. I’d send her two more bags of candy, today, if we could discuss the feasibility of creating a replacement high-quality arts magazine tomorrow. – DN

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