‘ARTnews’ and ‘Art in America’ Merge as Print Market Continues to Decline

The magazines have struggled financially despite new editorial leadership.

Two venerable art magazines have announced a merger, representing a consolidation of two respected publications that have struggled financially and for audience in the digital era.

Is this the beginning of the end for print art media?

ARTnews, the 113-year-old magazine, will merge with Art in America and the other art publications owned by newsprint magnate and art collector Peter Brant—the Magazine Antiques and MODERN magazine. Art in America was founded in 1913, 11 years after ARTnews. Both magazines have seen declining staff numbers and ad sales in recent years despite new editorial leadership that has sought to reinvigorate both publications. Interview magazine, which Brant purchased in the 1980s, is not included in the deal and will remain with Brant.

Brant will acquire a 47.61 percent share in ARTnews SA in return for the magazines, according to Reuters, which also indicates that Skate Capital Corp, headed by Russian art market analyst and investor Sergey Skaterschikov, will sell Brant 6.6 million ARTnews SA shares for $3.4 million.

(For the record, I worked at Art in America in various editorial capacities from 2004 to 2014.)

Sarah Douglas became editor-in-chief at ArtNews in July 2014 after serving as culture editor at the New York Observer, and made a clean sweep of the editorial staff, bringing in her Observer team. Lindsay Pollock has been editor of Art in America since 2011, after reporting on the art market for Bloomberg.

The Brant publications’ daily operations are overseen by Peter Brant’s son Ryan; Peter’s daughter Kelly Brant manages the magazines’ digital presence. ARTnews, meanwhile, has for 15 months been run by Izabela Depczyk.

The deal is pending approval by ArtNews’ shareholders. ARTnews’ management will seek to list the company on the German stock exchange, moving it from Warsaw, where it is currently traded.

Skaterschikov bought ARTnews via Skate Capital in April 2014 for $2 million. He then sold a 51 percent share in the magazine to Abbey House Group, a Warsaw-based art investment and media group. Abbey House briefly owned an auction company of the same name that paid artists a stipend in return for their work, which the house then offered at auction, with zero proceeds to the artists. The house’s website seems no longer to be operative. Abbey House bought Poland’s only art market publication, Art & Business, in 2010. The company also previously owned Abbey House Gallery, which it sold to Vienna’s 44-year-old Ernst Hilger Gallery last year for just over half a million dollars. Depczyk’s father, Marcin Depczyk, serves on ARTnews SA’s supervisory board.

ARTnews had recently been offered to other buyers at the same price for which it was acquired.

According to FT.com, ARTnews SA’s stock is trading at $1.79, down 10.5 percent over the last year. When Abbey House bought ARTnews in 2014, it was trading down nearly 54 percent over the previous year.

Artnews SA owns 8.26 percent of artnet stock, which it acquired through a purchase of Skates Capital.

Sources told artnet News last year that ARTnews was losing upwards of $300,000 a year. Meanwhile, Art in America had seen its editorial staff shrink over the last decade and ad sales stagnate since the 2008 crash.

Art in America’s staff will move to ARTnews’ offices in October, according to an internal email forwarded to artnet News.

As the press release has it, Brant Publications will become the majority shareholder in ArtNews, which will in turn take ownership of Brant’s three magazines. The magazines will combine their digital operations under www.artnews.com, dispensing with Art in America’s website as well as the websites for the other two print titles. None of the publications which are now banding together has a significant web presence (for example, Artnet news, launched in February 2014, has three times the web traffic of ARTnews) and all of them rely almost entirely on print advertising as a revenue model.

Art in America and ArtNews will continue their print publishing schedules of 11 issues per year. ArtNews will focus going forward on themed editions, we are told from an internal source.

Editor and publisher Milton Esterow previously owned ARTnews magazine and ran it with his daughter Judith Esterow after the Esterows bought it from Newsweek in 1972.

ArtNews’ website claims a print readership of 180,000 (this is not circulation but claimed readers and thus not verifiable) in 123 countries. Art in America claims some 200,000 readers, though again this cannot be checked. The Magazine Antiques, founded in 1922, publishes six issues a year, while MODERN magazine was launched in 2009 and is published quarterly.

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