‘ARTnews’ and ‘Art in America’ Are Bought by Penske Media, Owner of ‘Rolling Stone’ and ‘Variety’

Peter Brant has now sold all of his magazines but "Interview" (which he sold and rebought).

Jay Penske, owner of Penske Media Corporation, and designer Ralph Lauren at a Women's Wear Daily launch party, April 2015. Image courtesy Patrick McMullan/PMC.

In a surprise move finalized in the midst of a heated New York auction week, Penske Media Corporation announced it will acquire Art Media Holdings, LLC, the publishing company that includes ARTnewsArt in America, the Magazine ANTIQUES, and MODERN Magazine. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Prior to this latest transaction, Penske Media controlled 16 trade publications and consumer brands with a special interest in the entertainment and luxury lifestyle spaces, including Tinseltown media outlets Variety, Deadline, IndieWire, and HollywoodLife. But Penske’s properties also include such hallowed, non-cinematic names as Rolling Stone (it acquired a majority stake last December) and the Robb Report, both of which may provide hints of what will transpire with the company’s newest acquisitions.

Penske has been on a bit of a buying spree lately. According to Women’s Wear Daily (also a PMC property), earlier this year, the company received a $200 million investment from the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement on the deal, Penske Media describes itself as a “leading digital media company committed to investing in legacy media brands and evolving their strategies for today’s competitive digital media landscape.” ARTnews, founded in 1902, and Art in America, founded in 1913, stand as the two longest-running art-world publications still in existence.

Although the final strategy for the new acquisitions is no doubt still taking shape, Penske Media has already mentioned expansion possibilities for its newest, art-focused properties. These include launching data and analytics operations, staging business-to-business events, and otherwise powering up their digital footprints in forward-thinking ways.

However, Penske’s digital focus does not necessarily mean that ARTnews, Art in America, and their two sister publications will transition to online only. Both Rolling Stone and Variety, for instance, continue to publish regular print editions.

Peter Brant. Courtesy of photographer Sylvain Gaboury © Patrick McMullan.

Peter Brant. Courtesy of photographer Sylvain Gaboury © Patrick McMullan.

Mega-collector and newsprint magnate Peter Brant had been owner of Art Media Holdings, LLC. “These publications are guideposts to our world’s art history, and our own American culture,” he said in a statement. “I am very confident that Jay Penske and Penske Media are the right owners for their next many decades.”

Brant had previously tried to sell his art magazines in July 2015, merging Art in America, which he had owned for many years, as well as TMA and MODERN, with ARTnews, previously owned by Polish company Artnews SA. (The change saw ARTnews shift from a monthly to a quarterly print publication schedule.) Less than a year later, as Artnews SA declared bankruptcy, Brant, who had become the company’s majority shareholder, assumed full ownership of all four magazines under the then-new Art Media Holdings.

This May, another Brant-owned media property, the Andy Warhol-founded Interview, ceased publication, only to reemerge with new plans at the end of August, having declared bankruptcy. After voiding $3.3 million in outstanding debts to writers and other employees, Brant essentially repurchased Interview from himself via a newly formed holding company, Crystal Ball Media, with his daughter, Kelly Brant, as president. Interview relaunched in September with French filmmaker Agnès Varda on the cover.

Although Penske had no prior involvement in the art world, the transaction involves one clear tie to the industry outside of Brant himself. According to the statement, Alan Mnuchin of New York-based AGM Partners, LLC, advised Penske Media on the acquisition. Mnuchin is the brother of current US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the son of blue-chip dealer Robert Mnuchin, founder and namesake of Mnuchin Gallery.

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