Reviewing Artforum’s Advertisements

  • Earlier this week, Hol Art Books, a publisher in Tuscon, Arizona, created what it called a “bootleg” version of Artforum‘s summer issue, with all of the articles and none of the advertisements. Two days later, it was hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Artforum‘s lawyers, who alleged copyright infringement: no more bootleg Artforum.

    The idea of an ad-free Artforum frightened The Observer. We thought that the ads were central to the experience of the magazine. Seriously. In a contemporary art world with thousands of galleries scattered around the world, our only interaction with most shows is through their Artforum ads.

    Above, our five favorite ads from its summer issue. (Note that we have disqualified Zurich-based dealer Bruno Bischofberger since the pastoral photographs of rural Swiss life that he uses for each of his back-cover ads are masters of the form, beyond critique.)

  • Does anything need to be said about the greatness of this ad, featuring the artist herself? Think about someone describing a dream: in a field of polka dotted grass from which sprouted giant polka dotted pumpkins and mushrooms, a Japanese woman with bright red hair was petting a pink and white polka dotted dog. That's pretty much what is going on here, and it is amazing.

  • L&M's ad for the young powerhouse from New York is elegant and understated, cleverly avoiding any reference to his trademark silver canvases. Mysterious stuff. Mr. Kassay is absent, represented only by his prized signature, an anointer of six-figure canvases. Which collectors, it silently asks, will earn the paintings blessed with its presence?

  • A tantalizing tease: "Peter Nadin? But we haven't heard from him in almost 20 years!" And he gives us only this: a hefty pile of leafy greens scattered across the otherwise sterile Artforum page. We want to smother this image with a thick mustard vinaigrette and savor it with a baguette, a roasted chicken and red wine. Gavin Brown is an inventive Artforum ad maker. Here he is in top form.

  • Sure, the veteran French sculptor Bernar Venet may make clumsy, boring work, but this ad for his upcoming show at Versailles proves that the Artforum page can redeem even the most insipid artists. His pieces look like grand metal tidal waves that are about to engulf the former French palace. If only they had ditched the text altogether, this would be a tour de force, perhaps enough to force a reconsideration of his work.

  • Art Platform Los Angeles and ARCO Madrid

    Less is more, Art Platform Los Angeles, less is more. There is a lot of text here. So very, very much text that at first we thought it was an article. Luckily, when our eye fluttered away from your texty ad, it settled on the calming space just across the way, where ARCO Madrid has nestled into a minimal, Zen-like white ground, a Post-It note announcing the deadline for applying for its next edition. Art Platform's ad says, "Pay attention to us! We have text!" ARCO Madrid is much cooler. They are just saying: like, hey, we're doing this fair, and maybe, you know, think about participating, just kind of stick this note up on your wall, remind yourself of the deadline, but, you know, no worries.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s no secret that one of the main reasons why people, notably uber-busy directors and curators, read “Artforum” is for the ads as a way to be reminded about what’s the haps in the art scene. 

    I’m always comforted by the sublime pastorals fo the Bischofberger back-cover ads, too.

  2. DJM says:

    Is this for real? I don’t know anyone who has anything good to say about the ads, other than their volume is a good indication of the strength of the art market at any given time.