Today from our partner site Art Practical, we bring you an excerpt of Orit Gat’s essay on the art-magazine reading group she co-founded. The members of the group meet each month to evaluate every part of a single magazine, from cover to cover; Gat notes: “art magazines play a role in the way we all assess our place and opinions in regard to the art world.” This article was originally published on May 27, 2015.
A year and a half ago, my friend Clara and I emailed most people we knew in New York to see who may be interested in joining us in reading art magazines cover to cover. We called it the “Contemporary Art Magazines Critical Reading Group” (in hindsight, we should have named it something shorter, or at least have a better acronym than CAMCRG) and organized it via the Public School New York. The idea was to focus on a different art magazine at every session, and talk about the overall composition of any given issue, as well as specific articles, and the larger contribution a magazine makes or could make. We started with Artforum. It seemed like it would fit this methodology perfectly, since we all came to reading it cover to cover (for the first time, because really, who does that?) with a particular knowledge or opinion of the magazine, its history, its current status, and its style, and we all had certain expectations from it.
“Any surprises?” was the first thing we discussed in that initial meeting. I remember presuming that Artforum would be much more unequal and—sorry—boring than it was. The conversation very quickly veered from the lovely discovery that reading cover-to-cover is much more engaging than selective reading, to discussing the tone of writing in Artforum, the feeling that the magazine emphasizes a style and language that generates a sense of authority. Which brought about a discussion of how Artforum is actively writing the history of contemporary art—or at least, believes that’s what it does. That’s why the magazine opens with the obituaries, we laughed.