Now I needn’t ask if you’ve read an art magazine, because you’re clearly reading one right now, but are they becoming the compact, convenient alternative to art exhibitions? I know this sounds far-fetched (and it is a little bit) but there is reasoning behind it.
Firstly, an art magazine is a publication whose main topic is art. They exist in both print form, online or sometimes even both, and are often aimed at different audiences, including galleries, collectors, amateur or professional artists and the general public. As a reader myself for both leisure and research reasons, I am aware of the importance of these magazines within the art world as a whole. However, if we take a step back, are these journals providing such an insight to the visual, theoretical and creative content of exhibitions, that we no longer need to experience them first hand?
We are spoilt with glossy, high resolution images when reading these magazines. This is even more prominent since the transference into digital form, where HD screens allow photographs to mimic reality. It makes you wonder, since the fast development of technology in the past twenty years, how we can read about and see images of exhibitions on our mobile phones. We can access this on the train, in bed, and on the way to work – every reason to not see the real thing.
The reproduction of popular exhibitions within magazines adheres to the fast-paced (yet often lethargic) lifestyle we lead, where often it is hard to set aside time to experience art in all its glory; experience being the operative word here, for a magazine cannot capture this. Imagine reading about a Rothko exhibition, or a Tino Segal performance in one of these journals – you’d never be able to imagine how it feels to speculate the art first hand. Don’t get me wrong, different art is hated by some and loved by others but if you are reading a biased article then you’ll never get any personal feeling about the original work.
The publications themselves are branded in a similar way to how galleries are – they adhere to a particular audience and are formed of a certain kind of content. With branding in mind, both exhibitions and articles are chosen to represent a core set of ideas or concepts. Sadly, many journals are clogged up with advertisements (often about galleries or exhibitions), which dilutes the flow through article to article. I guess it’s obvious to state that if you view art physically, you would have no problem with pages and pages of unnecessary, similar adverts with the odd perfume campaign.
It seems that in contemporary society we may be running the risk of compacting experiences into digital or object forms. I’m not saying in anyway that it captures the essence of these experiences, nor do they pose a threat, but I know I’m not the only one guilty of skipping the latest box office movie in exchange for a review and a trailer or simply looking at the pictures of current popular exhibitions. Art has developed alongside art journals, magazines and monologues so these aren’t new additions to the workings of the art world, yet does convenience, lower cost (or buying something you can keep) and a commentary neglect an afternoon spent in the company of art itself? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one reading this magazine and not viewing the art in its full glory.