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Publishers Weekly, 2000-07-17 The lushly laid-out, usually rigorous and ever-trendy magazine Artforum is one of the long-running successes of the critical community. Newman (co-editor, Defining Modern Art: Selected Writings of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.) is well placed as a former managing editor of ArtNews magazine to tell the tale of the first dozen years of the magazine and its crucial championing of conceptual art, which eventually triumphed. Yet this bloated and repetitive volume suffers from its format: mostly unchallenged statements of "oral history" from various journalists and editors who were there. The extensive recollections include much vicious infighting and backstabbing, especially involving the polemicist and poetaster (and if this book is any evidence, nasty-tempered) Michael Fried, who is told on by a number of interviewees. And few pages in modern art history can be as boring as Newsweek art critic Peter Plagens's detailed account of his schooling, various fellowships and jobs, faithfully printed here word for word. Newman reportedly spent nine years on this project, which may have been far too many. The more terse statements, such as those by veteran art historians Robert Rosenblum and David Rosand, are among the most lucid and scene-setting. The late Meyer Schapiro, one of the éminences grises of modernist studies, gives a noble and benevolent impression, and one suspects if his involvement with the magazine had been more direct, the combative atmosphere might have ameliorated. This is one case where the human details behind print achievement actually belittle the work, rather than offering insights into what was accomplished. A reader genuinely interested in the real importance of Artforum might do well to simply read back issues. The personalities here interfere too much with the transmission of ideas. B&w photo insert not seen by PW. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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