Chicago can be Reborn from Community
The New Art Examiner was created as a resistance to censorship and the control of the Chicago art elite. It has a policy of zero tolerance for such activities. Chicago has never forgiven this act of independence, because it has its own hometown paranoia, which revolves around the application of power. Smoke and mirrors is the well-used metaphor; in which all the ideas of the freedom fighter and terrorist coalesce.
The art world, which houses the mighty and the humble, the celebrity and the down at heel, is not, and cannot be, regulated and so corruption, self-interest, and illusion abound. Dreams are born and fortunes gained, all on the backs of artists who make work that is called art, whether that is true or not. Charlatans, hustlers trustees curators gallerists, gentle souls and dreamers are all found in the extended melange.
The NAE grew from an eight-page tabloid into the largest and most respected art magazine published outside of New York. In spite of this noble contribution, the NAE was never recognized or accepted by the art power-elite, because they could not control its content. Chicago has yet to adapt to the 21st century and relinquish its inherent anti-intellectualism, change the manner of its governance, reforge its culture, and, if possible, lose the anti-intellectualism that fuelled the American melting pot.
The NAE was revived in 2013 after a period of inactivity, by co-founder Derek Guthrie with the input and support from Daniel Nanavati in Cornwall assisted by previous colleagues in Chicago.
Two independent teams emerged on a volunteer basis who shared a commitment to writing about art. Unfortunately the undercurrent of Chicago paranoia surfaced and the Chicago team lead by Michel Segard, Michael Ramstedt Tom Feldhacker, and Tom Mullaney broke the honor code and tried to dominate and shape the UK contribution and remove the publisher. In short, they attempted to steal the NAE.
The law on intellectual property rights will frustrate this cowardly act. The reputation of the NAE is too large and international to be corralled by this gang of upstarts who do not have the intellectual weight or vision to carry the NAE into a future. Their vision does not cross the boundary lines of Cook County.
This current issue, July /August 2017, exemplifies sophisticated and authoritative art criticism, as opposed to the self-serving offering of the rogue NAE which wallows in sentimental sexual politics. Sexual politics, whatever the disposition, is not guaranteed to be cutting edge. The NAE anticipates a full blown revival of Camelle Paglia, the well-established authority on these matters, with an extensive review of her Book Sexual Personae in the next issue.
Positive support has appeared. Two new Editors have merged Susana Gomez Lain in Madrid and Al Jirikowic in Washington DC. The Chicago cabal do not have the imagination to share the NAE with outsiders. This lack of imagination is not unique to Chicago. It includes “the feel-good comfort factor”, the glittering ideal of bourgeois ambition which is no prize.
Some have suggested the NAE walk away from Chicago as Chicago is not productive ground for art criticism. The NAE with enough support will stay loyal to Chicago as there are many in Chicago who are not caught in the trap of provincialism. Chicago patronage usually demands a heavy price of comprise, restricting the essential freedom of thought in response to the visual arts and cultural events.
An anonymous donor has set up a trust fund of over a million dollars that in the near future will match the working budgets of the respective editors. The NAE will not die and is not an extension of the manipulated marketplace. In the Jane Addams tradition, it will work in the community. The Publisher puts out a call to Chicago for citizens to step forward to make a board so we can apply for grants to pay writers. A board only has to meet once a year to pass the budget presented by the editor and staff.
This writer, the Publisher and co-founder now of advanced age, keeps the optimism natural to a young immigrant in the New World. Destiny took me to Chicago in 1969. Chicago, in part, shaped my life.
I have little hope of any positive support from Chicago, a place described by Nelson Algren as a “City on the Make”. We have nothing to trade as we only have ideas and we cherish freedom of expression for the “interdependent voice of the visual arts” has to tell the story honestly, as perceived.
I want to believe in artists. I think it is time for artists and writers to reclaim art discourse from the gatekeepers of museums, trustee collectors, and cowed academics
Volume 31 no.6 July / August 2017 p 3