Over the past century, Art in America has developed from a small specialized journal to a major voice in the rapidly changing contemporary art world.
To celebrate the magazine’s 100-year anniversary, we look back at the milestones that helped define critical thinking in the U.S. and abroad.
January: The art critic, historian and collector Frederic Fairchild Sherman publishes the first issue of Art in America. Although the magazine is founded in the watershed year that brought Marcel Duchamp and other European modernist pioneers to the Armory Show, early volumes focus on the old masters in American collections and, to a lesser extent, American folk art. Founding editor Wilhelm R. Valentiner models the magazine after German academic journals. Prominent contributors in the early years include art historians Wilhelm von Bode and Bernard Berenson.
April: In a virtuosic feat of connoisseurship, American art historian A. Kingsley Porter argues for the attribution of a small 15th-century statuette of a nude youth in a private New York collection to the Sienese sculptor Giacomo Cozzarelli.
For most of the decade, the magazine is titled Art in America and Elsewhere. The augmented title reflects the predominance of articles on European and Asian art as well as longstanding questions about the meaning of “American art” and how A.i.A.‘s identity should be defined.
October: In a monographic article, Valentiner discusses the 14th-century Sienese sculptor Tino di Camaino.
February: Berenson announces the discovery of a previously unknown Masaccio painting in Florence. The find is so significant that Berenson feels compelled to violate his personal prohibition against writing about artworks currently on the market: “I am so eager to communicate to my fellow students the discovery of a Madonna hitherto unknown but manifestly by Masaccio that I do not hesitate to break the rule of a lifetime.”
January: Frank Jewett Mather Jr., a prolific critic and Princeton scholar of Renaissance art, publishes a study of Maestro Fredi da Siena. Mather’s 1936 book on Venetian painting is also reviewed favorably in the magazine, which notes the author’s “hearty relish of the erotic aspects” of his subject.
April: Writing on Albert Bierstadt’s paintings of the American West, art historian Benjamin Poff Draper describes how the Hudson River School artist brought “the first real visual pictures of the wild scenery to a wondering Eastern population.”
Jean Lipman, an authority on American folk art and, later, a contemporary art collector, becomes editor of the magazine, a position that she will hold until 1971. The year Lipman takes over, the magazine has 199 subscribers; by 1970 the circulation will top 65,000.
July: In a rare article on modern art, collector A. Reynolds Morse champions Salvador Dalí. The artist, he writes, is “able to present to America the very essence of [itself], ennobled by the full effect of his intricate personal symbology.” The article is illustrated with Dalí paintings from Morse’s own collection, which will later become the basis of the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.
October: A special issue edited by Howard University professor James A. Porter examines the work of African-American painter Robert S. Duncanson.
Spring: Critic Elizabeth McCausland pens an essay on Marsden Hartley. Other issues that year focus on the work of early American painters Junius R. Sloan (Summer) and Edward Savage (Autumn).
As the ambition and stature of American art grows, contemporary art and architecture become the magazine’s primary focus.
Winter: A recurring feature on new talent is introduced. A mainstay of A.i.A. until 1966, the section presents work by emerging artists such as Donald Judd, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelly, Lee Bontecou, Jay DeFeo and Larry Rivers, as well as a host of artists who are less prominent today, including Robert Eshoo, Guy Palazzola, Easton Pribble and Jack Squier.
December: In “The Artist and the Public,” a statement about modern art and alienation, New York School painter Adolph Gottlieb writes, “Young artists find themselves helpless in a brutally predatory society.” In the same issue, Yale architecture professor Vincent J. Scully Jr. discusses buildings by Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson and Paul Schweikher, linking their modern designs to classical archetypes.
Number 2: Critics from Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the USSR and Yugoslavia are invited to give an “International Look at the USA.” Porter A. McCray, director of the international program
at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, remarks that “the projection of American art before a large international audience coincided with this country’s emergence from isolationism and with the general realization that henceforth the United States was to play a leading role in the world’s political arena.”
Number 2: Robert Indiana, Josef Albers, Jacob Lawrence and other artists are commissioned to design coins or decks of playing cards as part of an “Art for Everyday Living” feature. “The editors of this magazine believe that the best artists of our time should be involved in the everyday life of the people,” an unsigned editorial explains, .”and that this concept should be encouraged by our government.”
Number 4: In “Folklore of the Banal,” contributing editor Dorothy Gees Seckler describes Pop art as “the provocative new realism,” a burgeoning movement in American art that could “topple” Abstract Expressionism by “delivering images straight from the supermarket and dinette, the funny papers, and billboard advertising.”
The list of “editorial consultants” on the magazine’s masthead includes art world luminaries such as MoMA director of collections Alfred H. Barr Jr., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum director Thomas M. Messer, MoMA curator Dorothy C. Miller and Whitney Museum of American Art director Lloyd Goodrich.
Number 2: Roy Lichtenstein designs “Pop Panorama” covers evoking the 1964 World’s Fair for a New York-themed issue. A figure on the back cover wearing a gas mask exclaims, “Great Rings of Saturn!!”
Number 3: The cover of a special issue on West Coast art features an abstract painting by Billy Al Bengston. John Coplans, then on the editorial staff of California-based Artforum, writes that while San Francisco retains “a blandly concealed hostility” toward modern art, Los Angeles is emerging as an art center “where the artists have developed an aggressive and high-spirited arrogance that only young and talented men can have.”
October-November: Contributing editor Barbara Rose’s essay “ABC Art” is among the first and most influential critical analyses of Minimalism. Commenting on the style’s psychological aspects, Rose writes, “One might as easily construe the new, reserved impersonality and self-effacing anonymity as a reaction against the self-indulgence of an unbridled subjectivity, just as one might see it in terms of a formal reaction to the excesses of painterliness.”
September-October: A special feature on “The New Whitney” includes a celebration of the Marcel Breuer-designed building by architect and critic Peter Blake, who deems it “an insult to the Madison Avenue of the grey flannel suit” as well as .”a forward assault-position for America’s artists and a fortress for the consolidation of their gains.”
January-February: In an attempt to define the “Sensibility of the Sixties,” Barbara Rose and art historian Irving Sandler send a questionnaire about the general conditions of contemporary art to 35 American artists, including Dan Flavin, Robert Motherwell and George Segal. In his response, Carl Andre reflects: “Art is what we do. Culture is what is done to us.”
January-February: For a special issue on “The New Combine” of art and technology, critic Douglas M. Davis describes a “new sense of exhilaration and discovery” among artists like Nam June Paik, Larry Bell, Les Levine and others living in America’s “supertechnological society.”
July-August: The highlight of a 34-page report on 300 years of American printmaking is an original lithograph created for A.i.A. by Larry Rivers. One of the magazine’s earliest artist projects, the inserted work, A Hut Can Be a Hairdo, presents a voluminous bright purple mound that doubles as both a house and a hairstyle for a female figure.
January-February: In the midst of the Vietnam War, A.i.A. examines the role that crisis plays in artistic creation. In “Violence and Art,” critic Charlotte Willard theorizes: “Violence in life is mirrored by violence in art, for art draws its being from life as a child from its mother’s womb.”
Whitney Communications Corporation, headed by investor, publisher, art collector and sportsman John Hay Whitney, assumes ownership of the magazine.
November-December: Using a Polaroid camera, Lucas Samaras acts as photographer, model and editor for an A.i.A. artist project, creating a series of experimental self-portraits titled “Autopolaroid.”
March-April: Artist, critic and novelist Brian O’Doherty begins his editorship of A.i.A. with a pessimistic note assessing “the current failure of confidence in art.” He predicts “a new conservatism” in the ’70s as a reaction to ’60s activism. Nevertheless, under O’Doherty’s direction, A.i.A. takes a more radical tone. The “Issues and Commentary” section that he introduces becomes a forum for critical writing about economics, politics and art institutions.
May-June: In a special section on Andy Warhol, published in conjunction with his retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, critic Mary Josephson describes Warhol as an example “of the artist as perfect medium-both in the spiritualist and artistic sense.”
September-October: Critic Deborah Jowitt explores avant-garde choreography in “Post-Judson Dance,” singling out Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham and Meredith Monk for the .”new opaqueness” of their experimental pieces.
November-December: Eleanor Antin discusses fellow Southern California artist Ed Ruscha’s “phenomenological concerns with the nature of reading,” and casts him as the embodiment of his city’s culture, asking, “Is ‘Ruscha’ Los Angeles, the way ‘Lorca’ is Seville?”
Interviewed about Marcel Duchamp in the same issue, John Cage describes their shared attempts to “blur the distinctions between art and life.” He also observes that Duchamp “spoke constantly against the retinal aspects of art, whereas I have insisted upon the physicality of sound and the activity of listening.”
March-April: Elizabeth C. Baker, former managing editor at Art News, debuts as A.i.A. editor with an issue that features Kazimir Malevich’s White on White (ca. 1918) on the cover with an accompanying article about the Russian artist by Donald Judd. During her 34-year tenure, Baker will develop A.i.A.‘s signature mix of news, criticism, historical articles and regional and international reports.
September-October: In a bombshell article, art historian Rosalind Krauss accuses the executors of David Smith’s estate, among them critic Clement Greenberg and artist Robert Motherwell, of neglecting the sculptor’s work or even deliberately stripping paint from some pieces to suit their “taste for the monochrome of unadorned metal.”
May-June: A special section on feminist art includes “Women’s Art in the ’70s” by critic and curator Lawrence Alloway as well as contributing editor Lucy R. Lippard’s “The Pains and Pleasures of Rebirth: Women’s Body Art.” Aiming to “provoke thought and discussion about sexual and gender-oriented uses of the body in Conceptual Art by women,” Lippard discusses work by artists such as Rebecca Horn, Joan Jonas, Marina Abramovîc and Adrian Piper.
July-August: Art historian Donald B. Kuspit’s “Regionalism Reconsidered” proposes a critical framework for re-evaluating regional American art, offering “a positive view of the provincial spirit.” The issue also includes a “Letter from Chicago” by senior editor Peter Schjeldahl, among other reports on activities outside of New York and Los Angeles.
January-February: Artist Robert Morris reflects on the temporal experience of Minimalist sculpture, architecture and earthworks in “The Present Tense of Space.” Morris’s elliptical essay concludes that “if mental space is the conscious analogue-metaphor for the world from the reconstitutive ‘me’ point of view, then the experience of the work under examination lies outside this, prior to fixed memory images.”
November-December: Art historian Leo Steinberg publishes the first of two articles on the place of Picasso’s Three Women (1908) in the history of Cubism and the artist’s relationship to Cézanne. Steinberg’s argument prompts a polemical exchange with MoMA curator William Rubin in the following year’s May-April issue.
January-February: Lambasting the first exhibition of Richard Avedon’s fashion photography in a much-hyped exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, senior editor Roberta Smith says of the photographs: “they look more like posters than art and frequently make one wince for Avedon.” In the “Issues and Commentary” section, New York Times reporter Grace Glueck discusses the National Endowment for the Arts’s new “challenge grants,” a publicly funded program that elicits matching funds from private sources.
May-June: Rosalind Krauss diagrams an “expanded field” of sculpture in “John Mason and Post-Modernist Sculpture: New Experiences, New Words.” Krauss develops her theory further in a 1979 issue of October, the journal she cofounded.
Architecture critic Martin Filler publishes a series of articles on contemporary architects, including Robert Venturi (April), Richard Meier (May), Frank Gehry (Summer), Michael Graves (September), Charles Moore (October) and Peter Eisenman (November).
September: Jeffrey Deitch, identified in A.i.A. as an investment advisor and recipient of a 1979 NEA art critics fellowship, reports on the “brash new-wave/no-wave artworks” in the sprawling .”Times Square Show.” He argues that Collaborative Projects, Inc. (aka CoLab), which organized the show, represents a “post-SoHo phenomenon, a reaction to the clogged channels and art-for-art’s sake orientation of the post-Minimalist academy.”
December: A special issue grows out of a symposium organized in conjunction with MoMA’s Picasso retrospective. Participants include critics Lawrence Alloway and Clement Greenberg, and artists Eric Fischl, Joseph Kosuth, Elizabeth Murray and Ed Ruscha.
March: Associate editor Craig Owens examines the work of artist Laurie Anderson. In live performances mediated by electronic equipment, Owens argues, Anderson “shows us a world denatured by technology, and a self fragmented, pluralized, and thus dispossessed by its own representations.”
October: Robert Hobbs, the chief curator of Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art from August to December 1978, discusses the cultural roots of the Iranian revolution, an event which deepened his understanding of art as “a communal means of structuring identity, whether the identity be family, tribe, city, or nation.”
The Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums and Artists, a nationwide directory, is introduced.
November: In “Subversive Signs,” associate editor Hal Foster examines how artists Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer use words and phrases as “weapons,” prompting the viewer to become”an active reader of messages more than a contemplator of the esthetic.”
The magazine is purchased by Peter M. Brant.
Summer: “Slouching Toward Avenue D” by artist Walter Robinson and critic Carlo McCormick characterizes the East Village as New York’s .”newest bohemian efflorescence.” A polemical response by senior editor Craig Owens, “The Problem with Puerilism,” dismisses the scene as “a culture-industry outpost.”
April: Anthropologist James Clifford and art historian Yve-Alain Bois respond critically to MoMA’s exhibition “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art,” which examines connections between European modernism and tribal art from Africa, the Americas and the South Pacific. Clifford writes: “The MoMA show succeeds in demonstrating, not any essential affinity between tribal and modern, but rather the desire and power of the modern West to collect the world.”
In the same issue, literary critic Paul Smith celebrates the exhibition “Difference: On Representation and Sexuality,” at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, as “the first major attempt in America to take stock of the history and heritage of what is a crucial but underestimated aspect of contemporary art practice.” Invoking Lacanian analysis as a critical framework, the exhibition includes work by Mary Kelly, Sherrie Levine, Barbara Kruger and Silvia Kolbowski.
May: Following Andy Warhol’s death, a special section features art historian Thomas Crow’s essay “Saturday Disasters: Trace and Reference in Early Warhol” along with tributes to the late artist from friends such as art historian Kenneth E. Silver, artist Larry Rivers and critic David Bourdon.
June: Architecture critic Reyner Banham considers the Renzo Piano-designed addition to Houston’s Menil Collection. The reductive steel frame allows the building to blend into its surrounding suburban neighborhood, Banham argues, while the double curved ceiling panels filter in the optimal amount of natural light. “It all looks very simple . . . but simpleminded it is not.”
May: In a section on “Consumerist Art,” Roberta Smith describes how Jeff Koons creates a “dazzling visual and conceptual equilibrium” in his “art-about-art-about-consumerism.” Frequent contributor Holland Cotter discusses Haim Steinbach’s shelf pieces, and curator David Joselit connects Koons, Steinbach and others to a politicized Conceptualist tradition.
July: Writing in the first of two landmark “Art and Money” issues (followed by July 1990), contributing editor Carter Ratcliff argues that “our persistent habit of trying to separate market value from esthetic value is misguided, like the struggle to extricate a picture’s content from its form.” In interviews with Ratcliff, prominent dealers such as Leo Castelli, Ivan Karp, Paula Cooper and Larry Gagosian attest to a booming art market.
October: Dance critic Joan Acocella examines the “genuinely postmodern” work of 32-year-old choreographer and dancer Mark Morris. .”Though Morris’s dancers have hard things to do,” she remarks, “the look is one of ordinary movement-matter-of-fact, unmannered, with full weight, as if they were running to catch a bus.”
May: Art historian Benjamin H.D. Buchloh interviews Jean-Hubert Martin, curator of the exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre” at Paris’s Centre Pompidou and Parc de la Villette. Conceived in part as a reaction to MoMA’s 1984 .”‘Primitivism'” show, “Magiciens” gives equal weight to works both from well-known global “centers” and from the “margins.” Martin says, “I oppose the idea that one can only look at another culture to exploit it.”
July: “The Global Issue” heralds an international, decentralized art world. James Clifford, Boris Groys, Craig Owens, Martha Rosler, Robert Storr and Michele Wallace participate in a symposium, offering responses to the prompt: .”Does the advent of a ‘new global postmodern visual culture’ mean the end of local or regional specificity?”
December: In cooperation with other arts and culture magazines, A.i.A. publishes a section of activist art collective Group Material’s AIDS Timeline. Made for the Day Without Art 1990, a project by the nonprofit group Visual AIDS, the timeline includes medical facts, a history of political actions and documentation of community activities, interspersed with works by artists including Kay Rosen and Louise Lawler.
June: Marking the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Holland Cotter interviews 12 artists about the gay rights movement and queer identity. Ross Bleckner sees his sexuality as inextricably linked to his art: “My work is really about painting and painting is really about identity and identity, for me, is really about being gay.”
October: In “A Year in the Life: Tropic of Painting,” critic Jerry Saltz provides a taxonomy of work presented in New York’s 1993-94 season, confirming the suprisingly healthy status of what he calls .”the main currency of the art world”-painting. His “Big Cats” of the medium are led by Gerhard Richter. Saltz also discusses Patricia Cronin, Mira Schor and Rita Ackermann under the rubric .”Our Bodies, Our Selves, You Asshole.”
March: Contributing editor Linda Nochlin reviews the Whitney Museum’s “Black Male” show, which surveys how images of African-American men are treated in the work of artists such as Lorna Simpson, Glenn Ligon, Adrian Piper and Leon Golub. Nochlin: “The works call into question the vicious tradition of stereotype and caricature, omnipresent in both high and popular art but most widely visible in mass culture.”
December: Critic Robert Atkins presents his “guide to the exploding online art world” in .”The Art World & I Go On Line.” A pioneering embrace of networked technologies, the article contains details that now seem quaint. Educating readers about search engines, Atkins identifies Lycos, WebCrawler and InfoSeek as the “three giants of the field.”
May: Thomas McEvilley, known for his critical focus on overlooked and underappreciated art, examines works by African-American artists from the South in “The Missing Tradition.” Citing the public’s “incomplete understanding of African-American culture,” McEvilley questions why “one of the country’s premier painters,” self-taught Alabama artist Thornton Dial, “remains unknown to much of the mainstream art world.”
January: Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, senior editor Christopher Phillips reports on the first-ever Berlin Biennale, in which 70 percent of the participating artists are under 35. Highlights include a pair of massive stainless steel slides by Carsten Höller.
September: In “The Venice Biennale: Reformed, Renewed, Redeemed,” senior editor Marcia E. Vetrocq delivers an optimistic report on “the mother of all international art exhibitions.” Art world superstars Bruce Nauman and Louise Bourgeois share the year’s Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement.
April: Art historian Martha Buskirk considers the longevity of artworks that employ ephemeral materials in “Planning for Impermanence.” Citing examples like Kara Walker’s fragile, cut-paper installations and Eva Hesse’s latex and fiberglass sculptures, Buskirk wonders how conservators and collectors will delay the inevitable decay of such pieces over time.
December: Responding to the provocative exhibition “Posséder et Détruire” (Possess and Destroy) at Paris’s Musée du Louvre, art historians Linda Nochlin and Abigail Solomon-Godeau argue that a fundamental misogyny pervades the canon of Western art from Rembrandt to Delacroix to Picasso.
January: In an interview with contributing editor Robert Storr, Gerhard Richter discusses his continual shifts between figuration and abstraction, and explains why he allows himself this stylistic freedom: “I always hated those artists who were so consistent and had this sort of unified development. . . . I never worked at painting as if it were a job; it was always out of interest or for fun, a desire to try something.”
June-July: A special section about contemporary art in China, featuring articles and interviews by writers such as Barbara Pollack and managing editor Richard Vine, briefs Western audiences on a dynamic art scene. Concepts of individual expression, government censorship and urban demolition and expansion are explored in discussions of work by artists like Yang Fudong and Zhang Dali.
September: Marcia E. Vetrocq, a senior editor at A.i.A., takes over as the magazine’s chief editor.
March: A.i.A. launches artinamericamagazine.com.
April: Citing the human mind’s innate ability to process visual experience, critic Dave Hickey lauds the layered subtlety of formalism: “The primary virtue of formalism is that it allows you to see and hear patterns that were not put there, that only ended up there as a side effect of some other pattern more urgently desired.”
May: In his article “Provisional Painting,” critic Raphael Rubinstein examines the .”casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished or self-canceling” style of artists like Raoul De Keyser and Christopher Wool.
Lindsay Pollock, a former culture journalist at Bloomberg News, is named editor-in-chief of A.i.A.
To celebrate the magazine’s 100th anniversary, A.i.A. revives the tradition of publishing artist projects in its pages and commissions a series of covers designed by Ellsworth Kelly, Josh Smith, Sarah Sze and others.