“One Question” with Derek Guthrie, co-founder of the now defunct art magazine “The New Art Examiner”

Derek Guthrie is a British artist, art critic, and co-founder of the influential art magazine New Art Examiner. In October 1973, Guthrie and his late wife, Jane Addams Allen, founded the New Art Examiner in Chicago. Known for decades in Chicago for his work in art criticism, Guthrie is credited with having helped introduce a new set of writers that would become prominent in their field. The magazine ceased operations in 2002. In November of 2011 with the help of editors: Kathryn Born, Terri Griffith and Janet Koplos, a book titled The Essential New Art Examiner containing past essays and articles will be published.

Neoteric Art: Tell us more on the soon to be released book “The Essential New Art Examiner” and also some history on the magazine.

Derek Guthrie: After an absence for many years I returned to Chicago and gave a lecture at the Cultural Center on the New Art Examiner covering its birth which was a resistance to the then Chicago art elite that was determined that we should not publish. Art News was pressured to lift an article written by Jane Adams Allen and myself from the printing press a few days before publication.

The life of the NAE was turbulent and difficult as we were shunned by the MCA and also branded as ignorant art writers. I also in the lecture commented on the death of the NAE brought on by the incompetence of the last editor the late Kathryn Hixson and a lack luster board that was even bolstered by a massive grant from Lou Manilow. The magazine by then had already achieved a national status.

My comments and other stories caught the imagination of Kathryn Born of Chicago Art Magazine who with the help of Terri Griffith and Janet Koplos and past editors chose articles to be republished therefore making an anthology: “The Essential New Art Examiner”. I contributed an introductory essay along with Kathryn Born and Janet Koplos.

I am delighted not to have any part in the choosing of content as it proves the NAE was ahead of its time as many issues we introduced have meaning for a later generation. However the hostility that the New Art Examiner provoked continues. I hoped and expected with this event of recognition in the form of a book would lay to rest the idea that we were political incorrect.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is having a reception and one day seminar on Art Criticism organized by the head of Art Journalism Jim Yood a previous Chicago editor of the NAE. After consideration SAIC decided that they would not support my travel expenses to attend. This has caused some frustration as I was looking forward to the occasion to make known that the New Art Examiner was in part determined by the values Jane Addams put into place by her niece, my late wife and co-founder of the NAE, Jane Addams Allen. I have some hope that another University in the Midwest will give me in the new year the opportunity to make clear these unknown facts that Jane Addams Allen was afraid to acknowledge her heritage publicly as she feared a backlash accusing her of grandstanding on her family name. She was correct as the NAE received a letter to the editor from a well known public personality that was printed as all letters to the editor were saying that she was not fit to carry the family name.

I have the belief that culture is suffering in the US as the Independent spirit that used to be present in Intellectual life is disappearing. Tribal politics dominate. The individual who does not fit in to the orthodoxies of celebrity culture and or academia is left aside. It is my hope that in the reissuing of opinion on art written without fear or favor will point to possibilities of originality that now find difficulty to surface in a very controlled and sanitized art world.

Buy the book here.