`THE FIRST newspaper devoted to art" claims the promotional leaflet. In fact, more precisely, "The Art Newspaper" - as it is plainly called - is devoted to the art world quite as much as to art.
"I think there is a need," says Simon Jervis, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, "for a more immediate response to the news than the normal art magazines - which are essentially art-historical in their base - can give." He feels that, on the evidence so far of four issues (there are to be 10 a year), The Art Newspaper's concentration on "news, commentary, and editorial" is making "a good effort" in that direction. He welcomes the contribution.
This new venture, which certainly has all the conventional appearance of a newspaper - size, striking headlines, very short pieces as well as longer, researched articles, different sections, black and white photographs - has an editor who knows clearly what she is after. She is Anna Somers Cocks.
She spoke to me from her London office. Previously the editor of Apollo Magazine (and before that, until 1986, Assistant Keeper of Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum), Ms. Cocks said how, at Apollo, she had been struck by the way "the art world was like all the other specialized worlds - scientific, medical, whatever: it is fragmented." It divided itself "into modern art, old art, the archaeological people never spoke to the fine art people, people were separated even by centuries: `Renaissance people' didn't speak to `the Goths' and so on! Seriously. There is so much literature coming out now for each specialist that nobody can keep abreast of anything except their own specialization and perhaps one or two other things." Her paper brings together as many of these different facets as it can.
She also feels that "the art world" is fast becoming "an art world." What happens in one part of the world ultimately affects other parts.
"There is a whole world of art politics now, and law - laws, for example, to control the export of cultural property. So this paper looks at the art world from all these points of view," Cocks says.
One result of her approach is a striking internationalism in the paper. News comes from Moscow, Los Angeles, Rome, Barcelona, Zurich, New York, Tokyo, and even from more "provincial" places. Museum events are as likely to be noted in Bologna, Lille, or Liverpool as Paris or Munich. The January issue includes pieces about the Israel Museum's new building for modern art and a new art center in Thailand.
Cocks herself "has four languages," but a considerable amount of translation work needs to be farmed out, with pieces arriving in numerous languages. The paper manages to leap over national and linguistic barriers in fresh ways. "The internationalism of it is a very good thing," says Mr. Jervis.
Another enthusiastic reader, Neil Hughes-Onslow, travels extensively on the Continent and in the United States. He describes himself as "purely amateur" in his interest in art and "art gossip." "It is rather difficult to find out what exhibitions are happening in, shall we say, Genoa," he says. In The Art Newspaper he finds the coverage "of things happening so concentrated that `it's almost too much!"'
Mr. Hughes-Onslow, who is on the Executive Committee of the National Art Collections Fund in Britain, praised an interview with Franklin D. Murphy - described by the paper as "America's most powerful trustee."
It was an example of Cocks's aim to write not so much about art for artists, as what lies behind the events of the art world.
"For example - if there was suddenly an exhibition of an Italian artist up in the Henry Moore Centre (in Leeds, England)," then the paper would ask "what is the international network that got him up there, who's financing it, whose idea was it in the first place." She feels that the financing of an exhibition is a "terribly important question. …