Alison McDonald Opens Up About Gagosian Quarterly’s Editorial Refresh

With a fresh look and new editorial content, Gagosian Quarterly is hoping to expand its client base.

Photograph of feet lying on red towel
Behind-the-scenes photograph from The Virgin Suicides (1999), directed by Sofia Coppola, on the cover of “Gagosian & Film,” a supplement for Gagosian Quarterly, Spring 2024. Artwork: Sofia Coppola. Photo: courtesy Gagosian

When Alison McDonald first joined Gagosian as publishing director, the art gallery still followed the traditional model of sending out invitation cards for upcoming exhibitions. “An invitation card is very nice,” McDonald told Observer. “But it doesn’t give you anything, any part of the story, right?”

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McDonald and her boss, art dealer Larry Gagosian, starting thinking about ways to deliver more insight on their shows to the gallery’s audience. Not long after, Gagosian Quarterly, the gallery’s in-house print magazine with an online counterpart, was born.

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Eight years later, the magazine has expanded its coverage beyond Gagosian artists to delve into topics like art-centered protests against mass incarceration and the decor of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. The print edition is released four times a year with a run of 50,000 copies per issue, while its online counterpart receives 60,000 page views per month.

Now, with a new editorial refresh, McDonald is overseeing efforts to push its reach even further. “I want the brand to be accessible and interesting and speak to as wide an audience as possible,” she said.

Woman in floral shirt sitting in chair
Alison McDonald. Photo: courtesy Gagosian

Gagosian, which operates nearly twenty exhibition spaces across the U.S., Europe and Asia, has long treasured its publications arm. The gallery began publishing books in 1986, with more than 600 titles released in subsequent decades. “Having this publishing program meant that we already had an editorial arm at the gallery,” said McDonald. “Books are beautiful, they last a long time. But they reach a smaller number of very dedicated clients or people that are focused on a singular artist.” Gagosian Quarterly, in comparison, is more digestible, with more than a dozen articles per print issue and a variety of videos, interviews and broadcast events online.

Gagosian’s investment in virtual content came in handy during the Covid-19 pandemic when art galleries were forced to pivot to digital platforms. The gallery put together successful online programs like Spotlight, a weekly deep dive into different artists, and Premieres, which paired artists with musical performances.

Its robust publishing department has also enabled Gagosian to more easily adapt to changes in the art world, such as the decrease in clients regularly visiting physical galleries. “That still happens, of course,” said McDonald, who is also editor-in-chief of Gagosian Quarterly. “But there’s a lot of reaching clients in the world where they are.”

What’s next for Gagosian Quarterly?

With a brand-new look and concept, the magazine aims to continue keeping pace with cultural shifts. In addition to a revamped cover design and the debut of a crossword puzzle, the new Gagosian Quarterly will contain supplements focused on themes like music, architecture, dance, literature and theater.

While the publication has previously dedicated sections to guest editors like Roxane Gay and Alison Gingeras, this will mark its first foray into individual thematic topics. The initiative will help the gallery tap into new audiences, according to McDonald. “Maybe they come to it because they know that musician, but through that musician, they learn about all the artists that a musician collects and start to think ‘Oh, I never thought about Basquiat in that way before.'”

Bright magazine cover
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Lead Plate with Hole (1984) on the cover of Gagosian Quarterly, Spring 2024. Artwork © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York Photo: courtesy Gagosian

The first themed supplement will be included in the Spring 2024 edition of Gagosian Quarterly, released today (Feb. 22). Emphasizing film, it spotlights directors like Sofia Coppola and Frederick Wiseman and includes pieces on Whit Stillman’s influences and movie adaptations of Haruki Murakami’s writing.

Other key goals of the refresh include expanding online video content and pushing the magazine’s distribution. McDonald wants consumers to casually come across issues of Gagosian Quarterly, whether that be at art fairs, in airport lounges or while attending fashion week.

“The other side of it is how you can kind of appear in unexpected places and have people take note of that,” she said. “Unless they actually spend time in an exhibition and take away something from there, it can be another way of getting inside their head.”

Alison McDonald Opens Up About Gagosian Quarterly’s Editorial Refresh