This is truly the end of an era. Betsy Baker, editor of Art in America magazine since 1974, has resigned. Marcia Vetrocq, one of five senior editors, has become the new editor. According to my source at AiA, where I am a contributing editor, Betsy will continue working on projects for the magazine and
will remain on the masthead (possibly as editor-at-large). There is no official announcement at this writing.
Working at Art in America, shortly after Betsy arrived as editor, was my first art-related gig in the mainstream media. Critics Roberta Smith and Peter Schjeldahl were among my officemates, as was the artist Scott Burton.
I learned more about good journalism and good writing from Betsy than I ever did at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was a notoriously exacting (if exasperating) editor: I could never get away with any shortcuts, omissions or sloppy verbiage when she wielded the pencil. So I was compelled to be as meticulous in my research and writing as she was in her editing.
Betsy is intellectually brilliant, with a passion for contemporary culture. But she never sought the spotlight for herself, keeping a low public profile while devoting long hours to the excellence of her magazine.
When I recently saw AiA’s publisher Peter Brant appearing on the Charlie Rose Show with his wife, model Stephanie Seymour, and Louis Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs (where they talked about changes in another of Brant’s publications, Interview), I could only wonder what might soon happen at AiA. I don’t know if the recent change in regime at Brant Publications was a factor in Betsy’s resignation, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Perhaps it’s fitting that the theme for the current issue of the magazine (above) is “Art & Politics.”
UPDATE: More here.