Amidst heavy rains at the end of a muggy day in New York, dozens of art scribes gathered at Chelsea's Haunch of Venison gallery to honor Artnet.com's magazine. The German company, which provides a popular art market database, abruptly discontinued the online publication on June 25 after a 16-year run.
Artnet magazine's contributors ranged from art historians (Michèle C. Cone, Arthur Danto, Robert Rosenblum) and museum directors (Michael Rush, Thomas Hoving) to artists (Peter Halley, Elisabeth Kley) and critics (Peter Schjeldahl, Barbara Pollack), and it was a pioneer among art blogs. Founding (and sole) editor Walter Robinson referred to it as "a blog masquerading as a magazine." Its contents are archived at artnet.com.
On view was "Claxons," a group show curated by Robinson, including his own paintings alongside works by ceramic artist Elisabeth Kley, glass artist John Drury and painter Robert Goldman. DJ Spooky contributed the musical entertainment.
From the New York Times, whose Roberta Smith and Karen Rosenberg were present, to the New York Observer, represented by Andrew Russeth and Dan Duray, to New York Magazine, whose critic Jerry Saltz was in attendance, writers traded observations on the late publication and its editor.
"The landscape of art news is more like a desert," Duray told A.i.A. "There's not enough hard news, so you get lots of soft features. Artnet had hard news and good writing."
Reminiscing about when Robinson declined to publish an article he wrote, writer David Coggins recalled, "He wrote me the best ‘kill' letter ever. He was so angry but there was so much pleasure in the letter too. His putting the dagger all the way in made it hurt less somehow."
Emily Nathan was assistant editor at Artnet for a year and a half, and, last night, had just finished her fourth day as associate editor at Art News magazine. "Working with Walter was epic," she told A.i.A., "a great challenge, and I learned a lot from him, although his methods are unconventional, to say the least. He did not accept what he fondly described as ‘art speak blah blah,' something he felt my early writing was laden with."
"This party reveals Walter's long history of giving beginners their first break," artist Giovanni Garcia-Fenech, who was news editor at Artnet from 1999 to 2001, told A.i.A. "Everywhere I look, I see writers, photographers and even some art dealers who started as contributors to Artnet magazine."
Taking a break from spinning, DJ Spooky told A.i.A. about Origins, a magazine that he's editing. "It's devoted to art, architecture, design and yoga. We're going to have a cover with Ai Weiwei on it. We look at questions like, how does art impact food? How does food impact creativity? It's started by Whole Foods's owner, who's really into yoga."
"I'm a jogger," he added. "It's a whole different mindset."
At 11, the music faded, people filtered out into a light rain, and the lights went out on Artnet magazine for one last time.
Photo: Paul Miller (DJ Spooky), Walter Robinson. Courtesy Billy Farrell Agency