Art Seen: Chicago

NEWCITY // EXPANDING INTERNATIONALLY

by Stephanie Cristello

Newcity,  what many of us know as Chicago’s only cultural weekly, and one of the more ubiquitous and vernacular local art news outlets, has always represented more than just our city. Started by Brian and Jan Hieggelke in 1986 as a neighborhood newspaper, the publishers soon expanded their interests to include leadership in a national cooperative of alternative newspapers reaching more than 100 cities (Alternative Weekly Network) and eventually an internet network based in Chicago but encompassing nearly a hundred web sites around the country (the network is no longer active). We now know them as one of the few printed art publications left in this city. Looking forward to a new sort of expansion and development within the next year, internationally with the prospect of Newcity São Paulo, Brazil – we spoke about the publication’s history, and how the presence of a local art fair over the years sometimes matters, and other times does not, in terms of having a art publication in Chicago.

Newcity, Break Out Artists 2013.

The re-emergence of a major international art fair begs the question of the market and its influence on the local art community – though Newcity itself is a somewhat of a testament to how many art publications in the city operate; in the sense that it functions beyond, whether that is without or independently from, the art market. The re-emergence of EXPO, or the phenomena of a commercial fair, might be the tell – as Brian notes about whether or not the presence of an art fair intrinsically affects the publication, “Newcity’s heritage is very much grounded in visual art, but never made money in the market until about the last decade or so – which is funny because the art fairs were very commercially strong in the ‘80s.” Partly, much of this has to do with the primary funding coming from non-profits and the museum sector in advertising – galleries, particularly the commercial market, seem to have been reticent when it comes to purchasing ads. Or perhaps as Jan suggested, “you always see commercial galleries advertising on those glossy pages, maybe the newspaper is just too gritty for them!”

Beyond reviews and features, the local coverage here – spearheaded by Associate Editor Jason Foumberg – has developed its own initiatives, such as The Art 50, Breakout Artists, and the artist project that “hi-jacks” the newspaper to announce September’s opening season each year. The lists introduce a bit of competition, if not a tad of confirmation bias, collecting names and leveling out the rankings through suggestions from local artists and arts professionals. As Brian elaborates, “Beyond competition, it’s a way for artists to get to know each other. This was something we created years ago for the Literature section, the original Lit 50 – so that the poet would know the publisher down the street, and the bookstore owner would meet the novelist, etc. We then went on to launch the Theater and Performance sections – and ironically, it seems so obvious, but Art was one of the last ones we launched, and it has been getting some traction.”

Newcity’s Brazil expansion will embrace a different kind of local coverage, headquartered and edited in Chicago initially but with local writers in Brazil. Written in English, the content will be something that we can also read online here, but will fulfill a similar position within the São Paulo art community that we are used to locally.



Stephanie Cristello is the Editor in Chief for THE SEEN, and is also a Staff Writer at ArtSlant and the Chicago Contributor for New American Paintings.

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