Over here at the It’s Nice That office, we see many a publication championing art and design through beautifully laid out pages of text and image. Though it’s always refreshing to see, and read new stories arising out of the creative world, we are seldom enlightened by editorial pieces around art criticism, and that is where Provence magazine really makes its mark.
“Provence presents and tries not to represent”, the magazine’s representatives tells It’s Nice That. “We don’t review exhibitions, but feature artists as contributors and our articles are developed in close collaboration with the creatives.” For this particular magazine, primary research forms the basis of the publication, it features conversations by creatives and commissions reports from working practitioners as opposed to relying on the magazine’s in-house staff members.
Notably, Provence adds, “We don’t consider it a magazine, but rather a series of artist books in the format of a magazine.” As well as showcasing emerging creatives, one notable story in the magazine’s latest issue Report AW 18/19 pointedly investigates “whom does art serve?” While several artist practices in the 90s assessed this notion, Provence points out how “the art world has since changed, with new implications.”
In the latest issue, the focal point remarks on the changing socio-political economies of art that are “more embedded within society and culture” than ever before. And as these paradigmatic structures increasingly overlap, many artist practices have also evolved to become interdisciplinary in accordance with our times. As a result, Provence offers a unique stance exploring art criticism and its effects. Its stories explore how art’s collective gaze has been shifted to point outwards, “towards arts’ entanglement with other fields: for instance, Dominique Gonzalez-Forester and Ilya Lipkin working for — or with? — Balenciaga.”
In another editorial piece on art criticism, the article asks “what do you do when you are commissioned to write a text on art history without being an art historian?” The piece follows the cultural critic Lynne Tillman adopting a fictional character of her own creation to review a Renoir exhibition. Using the character as a vehicle to write through, Lynne’s article details how she “could have [the character] saying things or thinking about things and musing. And it was a way for me not to prove something about Renoir, or disprove it. I didn’t want to make claims and substantiate them, which is what historians of any kind have to do. I didn’t want to have to do that.”
Overall, the publication sheds a light on how art criticism is an underrated field of creativity. The Provence team “again and again refer back to Richard Pryor as quoted by Lane Relyea: ‘I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, I wanna grow up and be a critic.’” Through a minimal design that gives way to the neatly typeset stories inside, Provence’s rhythm flows through its editorial themes and classical design approach.
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