Editor’s Letter | Four Decades of Art

By Kristin Hoerth

I have been part of Southwest Art magazine for almost 17 years, and over those years I have learned a great deal about art, creativity, publishing, and the West. More than anything else, though, I have learned that this western art world we celebrate in the magazine every month is not primarily about paint and clay, or money and fame—it’s about people. That fact hits home for me every time I attend a show or visit galleries, as I see first-hand the relationships that make the art world go around. (As Jim Janes and Mark Smith of Greenhouse Gallery put it in this issue: “You cannot collect art without collecting friendships.”) That’s why we chose to celebrate our 40th anniversary by taking stock of important contributions made by 40 people who represent a cross-section of art in the West: those who make art, sell art, study art, and promote art.

Reading through these 40 interviews provides a fascinating look back at the changes we’ve seen over the past four decades. As many of our interviewees point out, when Southwest Art magazine debuted in 1971, “traditional realist art was not even on the map in the art world,” as artist Peter Adams says. Former museum director Peter Hassrick adds, “If American art was the stepchild of art history, then western art was its bastard cousin.” Today, representational art is flourishing, and not just in the West.

Mozart's Pansies by Richard Schmid.

Another sea change has taken place in the world of technology: The number-one change our respondents have seen in the art world is the way the Internet has changed virtually everything. From where I sit, the information revolution is the epitome of a mixed blessing. The art world is now more accessible and broadly based, but it is also far less personal. I agree wholeheartedly with sculptor Glenna Goodacre, who says, “Now there are virtual galleries and we’re in touch with collectors all over the world. But I still believe in galleries, in the experience of going into a beautiful space and seeing art as it would look in your home or office.”

Perhaps above all, the art world is bigger and more competitive. There are more well-trained artists, galleries, museum shows, and auctions vying for the attention of collectors who are more discriminating with their dollars than ever before. The western art market of the future will be determined by the ways in which artists, collectors, dealers, and others respond to these changes.

Still, there are a few things we can count on. Artists will continue to enrich our lives. Collectors will continue to support artists. And Southwest Art will continue to introduce you to the best artists. Our unwavering commitment to artistic excellence has made us the most widely read art magazine in the West, and it will remain unchanged for the next 40 years. Thank you for coming along for the ride. –May 2011