ARTnews magazine was editor and publisher Milton Esterow‘s labor of love for 41 years. It’s with sadness that I report his family’s sale of the magazine to Skate Capital Corp., described in the official announcement of the transaction as “a private art and media industry investment vehicle of Sergey Skaterschikov.”
The above-linked announcement describes some of Skate’s art-investment activity. Here’s more on Skaterschikov, whose focus seems to be mostly market-oriented.
Milton was passionate about art journalism. As a former arts writer at the NY Times, he demanded solid journalistic principles and practices from his writers. During my time as associate editor there in the ’70s, I winced every time he wrote “Who says?” in the margin of my manuscripts. In investigative pieces, every expression of opinion or attempt at analysis had to be backed up with solid evidence or corroborated by experts in the field.
But writers who adhered to his standards got his strong, unflagging support in taking on the artworld establishment. For this reason, he inspired loyalty in those who learned how not to trigger his temper. When I told him I was leaving to write a book and have my first baby, he unexpectedly gave me a parting bonus, in appreciation for my contributions.
He could also be counted on to apply for journalism awards and my work won two during my short stint there: a Society of the Silurians Award for Investigative Reporting and a George Polk Memorial Award for Cultural Reporting. During his four decades at the helm, the magazine won 45 awards for reporting, analysis, criticism, and design.
Like many who worked for him, I had a sometimes prickly relationship with Milt. But he was a master at finding and nurturing talented writers and he never stopped tinkering with the magazine, always trying to improve it and keep it fresh.
“Who says?” I say!
What kinds of values an asset management firm will bring to this enterprise remain to be seen. I suspect the magazine will have a very different emphasis, a different target audience and, perhaps, a different cast of characters.
UPDATE: Patricia Cohen reports in the NY Times that Skaterschikov said he’s “not going to meddle” with the editorial side of ARTnews.