Modern Painters, published monthly in London

Looking at the cover of Modern Painters, the publication states its area of interest and readership is 'international arts and culture', and a brief look through the contents page, the advertisements and website confirms this. The November 2005 issue for example, has the initial section of writing classified at the contents page as departments covering New York, Photography, Film, Interview and Music. These however vary from issue to issue, and are not limited by number. There are also short articles on Emerging Artists (usually two of three) and View From, which focuses on two locations and an art event, or the art scene in that particular, relatively unknown location.

It is interesting that these are separated from the actual features of the magazine which are listed on a second contents page. They range from a two page article on the Marc Quinn sculpture for the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square to an eight page article discussing comic book art that is featured on the cover. This at once separates the disciplines of film photography and music away from 'the art' but also allows each area of interest to be explored and a focus on a certain theme within the features section, in this case comics as art. The magazine as a result has a wide spectrum of interest for its readership and a certain 'something for everyone' approach.

The magazine has a comprehensive layout that runs throughout, though one which changes slightly depending on each article, creating a kind of signature. For example, the Emerging Artists articles all have the same layout of horizontally, over two pages two thirds image and one third text. At the same time, the whole publication uses an image rich layout, with illustrations to which a direct reference is made in the text, and uses the spatial relationships and design to differentiate between the different features. As well as breaking the text up the images also act as a kind of advert for the article, a way to entice the reader in - each article has a large image at the start along with the title. Rather than using headings to divide the text, instead it uses expanded fragments of writing or conversation to again lure the reader right into the beef of the article.

The articles are written in such a way as to be accessible to every reader - they do not assume a prior knowledge of critical theory or blast the reader with theories, but act more as a connection between the reader and the artist, or subject of the article. It is a journalistic writing style that in most cases is written directly to the reader. Vince Aletti, writing in the November 2005 issue says "No matter what flea market you hit - New York's rapidly shrinking 25th Street complex of indoor and outdoor lots, London's Portobello Road, the sprawl of Clignancourt and Vanves in Paris - most of the photographs you find are likely to be studio portraits and family snapshots in a range of formats that recapitulate almost the entire history of the medium..." Actually writing this down made me realise just how long it is (and 15 words have been cut from the end), but the sentence has pace, and enough natural breaks that its length does not matter. Rather than preaching or teaching to the reader, Aletti is almost in conversation with us.

The main article of the issue that is featured on the cover is written slightly more formally, mainly through using the third person and being less descriptive. It is still very accessible to the reader and has a pace and fluency that keeps the article interesting and informative. Accessibility can be such a buzzword that can constitute a dumbing-down of a subject or a patronisation of the reader, but modern Painters treads this fine line by adopting an informal tone and by acting in a way as a go-between between the artist and reader. David D'Arcy writes on Art Spiegelman "While he's the kind of contrarian who never loses sight of a cloud on even the sunniest day, Spiegelman remains the ideal, opinionated guide through a medium that he's still helping to shape." This suits the article length and subject being more thematic whilst still giving its attention to one practitioner.

This way of writing gives Modern Painters a universal appeal that allows its wide readership to engage with many of the articles featured in an issue and one that they may not know much about. For example, as someone who knows very little about film, I can read, understand and appreciate all that the article on Jaqcues Demy's film in the November issue has to offer. It also allows an opportunity for further research with the number of factual references within the text if so inclined.

The international characteristic of the magazine is an important aspect to consider in terms of the appeal of a submission to the magazine. Though the magazine is published in London it has an international appeal through the language used (garbage instead of rubbish for example) and the scope of its articles and reviews. November and Decembers issues feature, between them, exhibition reviews from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Dublin, Paris, Salisbury, Berlin, Toulouse, Siena and Salamanca, along with more in depth views of Castellon, Marrakech, Norwich and Moscow. The scope between the variety of disciplines and contemporary culture as a result of the wide readership and appeal of the magazine is really very free in terms of a submission. The proposed article does not sit in one particular department or discipline, but crosses between photography and architecture, and is aimed at the features section of the magazine. It's of specific interest to Modern Painters because of the international aspect of the magazine - Sugimoto is an international artist - and the cross disciplinary nature of his practice. On a secondary note, Mark Rappolt is the deputy Editor, and a frequent writer on architecture and design. Karen Wright, the Editor, writes in November's editorial "...the magazine is dramatically increasing its audience and expanding into new markets, with many new readers..." She also explains the search for a new title for the magazine to reflect the changing emphasis of the publication, from a "conservative journal of the arts," to one that has "continued to produce articles on a wide variety of artists by an incomparable array of writers." I think this can be seen as a description of their aim - to publish articles by writers from all disciplines and experiences on a more united and central theme: art and its related culture.

Modern Painters


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