When we moved to Denver we went on a little rampage of purchasing memberships to all the museums and to the Botanical Gardens (usually, if you're going to go to a museum more than twice per year this makes sense). One of the perks of our Denver Art Museum membership was a $20 deal for an annual subscription to both Art in America and Artforum, so we pounced on it. I initially assumed that these are the kind of magazines you don't read per se, but keep on the coffee table for guests and flip through now & then like picture books. In fact I find the prose pretty readable, even accessible, though it's interesting to see what knowledge is taken as a given. Like poetry, the visual arts constitute a subculture and insider references abound.
Just for fun here are some excerpts from the December 2011 issue of Art in America:
It almost goes without saying that art openings and booze go hand in hand, especially during schmoozy events like this month's Art Basel Miami Beach. And Austrian prankster Erwin Wurm is making sure of that with his new exhibition, "Beauty Business," at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach. Known for his humorous works, such as his "One-Minute Sculptures" that have participants strike ridiculous poses with props, Wurm has created a series of "Drinking Sculptures," which he says are completed when the participants are drunk. Bay Area conceptualist Tom Marioni was on to something similar with his 1970 performance piece The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art (ongoing), though he mercifully doesn't require such excess.
From an obituary on Richard Hamilton by Gillian Forrester (as an example of the aforementioned insider references, the first paragraph uses the acronym "YBAs," which I correctly guessed stands for "Young British Artists"):
He was a founding member, in 1952, of the Independent Group of painters, sculptors, architects, and critics, who met regularly at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts to discuss science, technology, mass media, consumerism and critical theory, issues that were to preoccupy Hamilton for the remainder of his life. He collaborated with John McHale and John Voelcker on an installation for "This is Tomorrow," the seminal 1956 exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, for which he made his influential collage Just what is it that makes today's home so different, so appealing? [see above] It remains, for better or worse, his best-known work.
The following year Hamilton produced his celebrated list of the defining characteristics of Pop: "Popular (designed for a mass audience); Transient (short term solution); Expendable (easily forgotten); Low Cost; Mass Produced; Young (aimed at youth); Witty; Sexy; Gimmicky; Glamorous; Big business."
From "Denial" by Mark Handforth (part of a series called "Muse" which I take to be artists writing about an important influence):
There's a firmly rooted belief in British art schools -- and I really do believe this -- that their project is not only to produce traditional artists. It's also to foster musicians, rock 'n' rollers like Bryan Ferry, graphic designers and so on. The schools produce a wider world of people who make the planet worth living on -- artists who are non-artists, if you like.
Are there hobby or trade magazines you like to read that have nothing to do with what you "do"? I assume Architectural Digest exists mostly for this reason; architects don't read it, do they?