PRINT September 2012

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Ida Panicelli on editing

AS I THINK ABOUT the images and words circulating during my years as editor of Artforum, certain moments come to mind. There was my baptism by fire, the experience of serving as a witness in Carl Andre’s trial a few months after I arrived in New York. And there was my September 1989 editorial, cosigned with publisher Anthony Korner and my fellow editors, which defended the NEA and free speech, then under virulent attack by Senator Jesse Helms. The cover of that issue featured an image of a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph being projected onto the facade of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, as part of a demonstration against the museum’s cancellation of the artist’s retrospective. The same Mapplethorpe photo would soon begin appearing on T-shirts worn by young people I encountered along Broadway on my way to work. Then there was the AIDS crisis: As the illness was striking the art world, we saw friends, colleagues, artists, and dealers die. (Three years after I left Artforum, we endured the painful loss of our former managing editor Charles V. Miller.) We watched the buildup of propaganda that would lead to the first Gulf War, and we agonized over whether to publish graphic war photos—which we ultimately did. Finally, there were innumerable conversations with writers and artists—Tom McEvilley, Germano Celant, Donald Kuspit, Hilton Als, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero—and many studio visits, part of working with artists we’d asked to create projects for the pages of the magazine.

During my tenure, we worked without computers, typesetting in-house using scissors and matte knives to make last-minute corrections. “Gimme an m!” would resound from the design section when someone detected a misprint—today, this sounds prehistoric! The art world has changed profoundly, and new technologies have increased the speed with which information travels, but the magazine’s commitment to bearing witness to the world has not changed.

Ida Panicelli is a contributing editor of Artforum and served as the magazine’s editor from 1988 until 1992.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.