When I founded The Art Newspaper in 1990, I noticed that most writing about art forces the subject into a ghetto; it takes it out of the common currencies of life, language and value judgements.
On the one hand, there are the professional art historians, all theorising away in their distinct areas, "Renaissance" people not talking to "the Contemporaries", for example, let alone to the non-professional. Art history, like most disciplines, has fragmented as it has become more specialised.
On the other hand, there are the critics. A very few of these are good; they are sure of what they like and can explain why in clear English; they bring to art a broad culture and intellectual maturity. But much art criticism is not worthy of its name, since it is merely celebratory, explains little if anything and is written in the most awful, pretentious English.
The Art Newspaper (and the other newspapers in the network) aims to remedy these obstacles to approaching the world of art. We recognise that the art world is part of ordinary life. For example, exhibitions do not happen just because someone thinks it would be nice to put a certain group of art together. In reality, there is a complicated combination of factors, which includes high finance, international diplomacy and the aspirations of museum directors.
We report on old art, new art, decorative art, the commercial and the non-commercial world—but we are very careful not to mix the last two up, as that lead to puffery, another of the besetting sins of art publications. We want to know and show where the power lies in the art world.
The Art Newspaper: an investigative newspaper
We regularly publish breaking news (for example, the story about mega-collector Sheikh Saud al Thani of Qatar’s hugely inflated invoices and his relations with dealers and auction houses) that gets taken up by the daily papers.
One of our journalists has gone undercover to meet tomb-robbers in Italy and find out the economics of the trade in illicit antiquities.
We sent a journalist into Nablus to find out the truth about damage caused by Israeli troops to the ancient buildings.
The Art Newspaper: a campaigning newspaper
Since the outset, we have campaigned in The Art Newspaper whenever we have seen the world's heritage at risk.
As soon as it was know that the National Museum in Baghdad had been looted in the second Iraqi war, we tracked down its very rare catalogues and put all its images on our web site, with links to Unesco and the British Museum. During the first war against Saddam Hussein, it was The Art Newspaper that disclosed how many of Iraq's major archaeological sites were extremely close to bombing targets and published maps (Ur, the world's oldest city, was actually inside an Iraqi airforce base).
We were the first to publish the damage to monuments at the outset of the Balkan troubles in the 1990s.
We have explained the threat posed by climate change to Venice, and the risk of another major flood like the one in 1966 that put this lovely and fragile city under two metres of water. We believe that the Italian government must move fast to build the mobile barriers at the openings into the Adriatic which have existed in prototype now since 1992. We have lobbied Italian politicians over this.
We have again and again drawn attention to the hypocrisies both of the art trade and of the archaeologically rich nations so far as the trade in antiquities is concerned, and of the urgent need for greater dialogue and realism. We have organised round-table discussions and a public debate between major players in this field.
Who reads us
Keen exhibition viewers, museum professionals, collectors, artists, lawyers specialising in cultural property issues, arts administrators, policemen, dealers and auctioneers....You do not have to be learned to read The Art Newspaper; you just have to be in the game a little.