PRINT September 1993

*ARTFORUM ’80 - ’93*

Fourteen Years On: Just the Highlights

IT IS HARD to believe that 14 years have passed since October 1979, when Amy Baker and I were handed the keys to the old Artforum office on Madison Avenue. We had just concluded the negotiations to purchase the magazine from Charles Cowles, who had owned it for the previous 14 years. Had I known even half the problems and crises that lay in Artforum’s future I might not have embarked on this venture, but what a lot of pleasure, what a lot of friends and allies, and what great art and writing I would have missed.

We began with “brilliant” ideas and “grand” ambitions. Some, like changing the company name from California Artforum to Artforum International, were easily achieved. Others, like changing the world, have not yet materialized. On the other hand, opening up the magazine’s pages to as wide a spectrum of the arts as possible, and to as far-flung a geographical spread as we could afford, did become a reality. Specifically, we aimed to provide the art world with an independent venue for the discussion of contemporary culture, and, perhaps most important, one in which the voices of artists could also find a home.

I remember Germano Celant’s advice at one of our first editorial meetings: “Always surprise your audience. Never let your readers take you for granted.” Perhaps we haven’t invariably lived up to that advice, but our editors-in-chief, Ingrid Sischy, Ida Panicelli, and now Jack Bankowsky, have all shared our goals. And the result is this magazine that you are holding in your hands.

As I look back at past issues I am amazed by the number and range of artists we have covered, in articles, with artist’s projects designed for the magazine, and in reviews. Though I have to leave out the great majority of the contributors who collectively created the last 14 years of Artforum, I would like to highlight a few occasions that touched me personally with their truth, passion, and commitment:

Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid telling the story of how they first read Artforum in Moscow (March 1980).

Walter De Maria giving us an exclusive scoop on the first photographs of The Lightning Field (April 1980).

Marie Cosindas providing the two superb Polaroid photographs she took in 1979 of Peggy Guggenheim in Venice (May 1980).

Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno recording exclusive discs of their music to be inserted in the magazine (February 1982 and Summer 1986).

Wu Guan-zhong writing to us out of the blue from China (April 1982).

Pontus Hulten making available to us the incredible manuscript of his correspondence with Jean Tinguely for facsimile reproduction (January 1984).

Thomas McEvilley sticking to his guns under heavy fire (February and May 1985).

Lucas Samaras designing the first art-magazine cover ever to feature a hologram (Summer 1985).

Projects by Gran Fury and the Guerrilla Girls bringing art and politics together in our pages (October 1989 and September 1990).

The AIDS time line, collectively published with Afterimage, Art & Auction, Art in America, Art New England, Arts, Contemporanea, High Performance, October, Parkett, and Shift (December 1990).

David Wojnarowicz (and Anne MacDonald) allowing us to prepublish the deeply moving last two pages of his last book, shortly before his death (March 1992).

This brings us up to the next 30 years. We still have many of the same dreams, ambitions, and plans with which we started. Having made Artforum more reader friendly through perfect binding, better-quality paper stock and color, and clearer typography, we can still improve the magazine by making the writing we feature more accessible. By building up our own audience, we can, together with like-minded friends, win a larger general audience for contemporary art.

As for changing the world, I think we can still attempt that too. Thus far, we have joined the fight in defense of the right to free speech. We have supported the arts community in a hostile climate and will continue to do so. In September 1992 we published excerpts from a brilliant speech by opera director and festival organizer Peter Sellars at a British-American Arts Association conference in London, in which Sellars spiritedly argued the essential human need for the arts. Using the example of Los Angeles, he showed how the sharing of cultures, the respect for other cultures, can help heal appalling social wounds. Declan McGonagle, director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, took up this theme in the May 1993 issue of Artforum, applying it to the desperate, unending civil war in Northern Ireland. We must explore this powerful doctrine further, advocating it wherever religious, ethnic, or political intolerance have divided society. For what we do here in the name of art can indeed have an impact on the world.

Anthony Korner is the publisher of Artforum.