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25 years of art in print: Texte zur Kunst

INTERVIEW. The quarterly publication Texte zur Kunst celebrates 25 years of leading the art publication world in theory and debate. Read our interview with the co-founder and the editor-in-chief.

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Photo by Viktor Richardsson

Influential Berlin art magazine Texte zur Kunst celebrates its 25th anniversary with a gala at Haus der Berliner Festspiele on Friday, November 27.

A quarterly publication of essays and reviews on art and media culture with features in both German and English, Texte zur Kunst has secured its position as a major international platform for theory and debate. Co-founder and publisher Isabelle Graw (photo, left) and Caroline Busta (right), editor-in-chief since 2014, told us more about Berlin’s most critical art magazine and where it’s headed.

How did you both become art writers?

CAROLINE BUSTA: I lived in New York for 15 years until last year, when I moved to Berlin. I got into art writing through music, because there was a moment around 2003 when a lot of the music venues closed, and art galleries started creating spaces for performances. If you agreed to write something, then you could get in and hang out with your friends.

ISABELLE GRAW: I originally studied political science in Paris. But being from Hamburg I was already acquainted with the scene around Albert Oehlen, Werner Büttner and so on, and I started writing reviews for a German magazine called Wolkenkratzer Art Journal. Suddenly I was considered an art critic, even though I hadn’t studied art history at that point. It’s only once I became their editor-in-chief that I became an art lover, I guess. But I’ve never been interested in art per se; it was rather suspicious to me. I’m only interested in art as something that relates to social issues.

Why co-found your own art magazine, then?

IG: Wolkenkratzer was similar to Monopol, only a little bit more intellectually ambitious. But I slowly came to the conclusion that there needed to be a new magazine in Germany with analysis from an external point of view. So Stefan Germer and I launched Texte zur Kunst in Cologne in 1990. Along with a few others, we taught each other how to write about art and edit our texts. It wasn’t until 1999 that we decided we had to come to Berlin.

Did it make a big difference for the magazine to be based here?

IG: Where you’re based determines where you see the most shows and talk to people, and that shapes your approach. In Berlin, even though the institutions very rarely produce an interesting show, there are many interesting galleries, and there are a lot of excellent art historians and theorists who live here.

CB: To be honest, I don’t think this magazine could be produced in a different city. Berlin al lows for a kind of curiosity, a head space. Ideas cohere and then disseminate in other cities, like Porto, Vienna, New York or LA, and then come back together here to be further developed, because things are still possible in Berlin at an unprecedented level.

Was there ever a point when you thought Texte zur Kunst wouldn’t continue?

IG: When my co-founder Stefan died in 1998, it was very hard to take sole responsibility. But we always felt that as long as there were issues that needed to be covered, and nobody else was asking the questions we were asking, that we’d keep the journal going. Unless somebody comes along and does the job better, then maybe it would be time to do something else. But that time hasn’t come yet.

What kind of impact has Texte zur Kunst had on the art world?

CB: We started publishing all feature articles in German and English in 2006, and then all of the sudden there was this new level of critical exchange between New York and Berlin, which was a very important moment for the reception of German artists there. Suddenly these two critical spheres were much more legible to each other. Right now in New York there are shows in September and October by no less than 10 different prominent German artists, all of whom figured in the discourse that we started, or at least propagated for the last 25 years.

So, what’s next?

CB: Today with the internet, our readers are global art students and critics, and no longer tied to a spe cific location.

IG: Soon there will be a digital version, but as long as people desire the printed object, we will continue publishing that too. I would also like all our content, not only the features, to be in both German and English. While my board members don’t agree with me, I think it could even just be in English, because that’s the lingua franca of the art world. As a non-German native editor-in-chief, Carly already repre sents a step in that direction.

25 Jahre TEXTE ZUR KUNST Gala Conference + Party, Fri, Nov 27, 14:00-late | Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Schaperstr. 24, Wilmersdorf, U-Bhf Spichernstr.