The New Open Space
To our readers and friends — welcome to the new Open Space.
Since our launch in 2008, Open Space has been commissioning and supporting experimental and critical responses to art, institutions, and culture, in the Bay Area particularly. We’ve worked with hundreds of writers and artists, poets and editors, musicians, filmmakers, curators, and critics in a variety of capacities, exploring with them what it can mean to expand the possibilities for reflection on and engagement with visual art and culture, often beyond the limits and expectations of contemporary art discourse.
Our columnists-in-residence program — in which our regular writers are free to write and publish without editorial oversight from Open Space or SFMOMA — continues to be a unique publishing experiment within the field of museum institutions; indeed, it is rare in any case. Two of us are employed full-time by SFMOMA to steward the magazine, yet the platform is also held in common by the ever-growing collective of columnists who retain the keys to Open Space and can post in at any time.
Open Space also occupies a peculiar threshold in the universe of arts journalism. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is our home and bankroll, but especially our launching pad — our gaze is trained on the world first, museum second. We think with our contributors and audience about art and its issues, we generate new experiments in writing about art, and we invite original media that responds to art. In residence as we are at a value-conferring institution, Open Space strives to avoid the qualifying, evaluative space and instead aims to work within the more fluid spaces of inquiry, response, and overt subjectivity.
Over the years, our columnists have leveraged Open Space into a place for critical conversations that often had no other public venue. The examples are many, from an impassioned discussion about the impending closure of thirty-year-old alternative art space New Langton Arts in 2009, touched off by one of our first columnists, Julian Myers, to a debate last spring around the potential costs vs. rewards of artists’ participation in the stARTup Art Fair, sparked by a post collaboratively authored by columnist alum Joseph del Pesco and his guest, Bean Gilsdorf.
We are proud to have been able to host these and many other conversations, and proud that for nearly eight years we’ve been able to keep the platform open to tough new engagements, even when they were aimed directly at SFMOMA practices or programs. (See, for example, our Shop Talk series, examining the implications of artist Stephanie Syjuco’s Shadow Shop installation, or Anne Walsh’s assessment of the race and gender balance in SFMOMA collections exhibitions.)
The climate for the arts in our region has changed rapidly and radically since 2008 and the early days of Open Space — among other things, the tech boom has meant aggressively escalating rents and cost of living, which in turn means artists and art spaces are faced with an aggressive new precarity. Is it possible for Open Space, and SFMOMA, to have a direct and positive effect in the fight to maintain the vitality and diversity of artistic expression in the Bay Area? Open Space will continue to seek ways to be of service and support to working artists and artists’ organizations as they struggle to stay afloat, to thrive, and to grow here, and we will continue to participate in local efforts making these struggles visible.
The new platform we launch today is the result of nearly three years of thinking, planning, and rebuilding. It reflects our commitment to furthering the work we and our contributors have been doing since 2008, and reflects the commitment SFMOMA has made to supporting the activities of Open Space and the community of participants we have gathered. We are very excited to share our expanded publishing program with you, and we have a fantastic fall season in store; more details on both are here. Please explore the new site, forgive us while we work the bugs out, and stay with us as we start to roll.
A tremendous number of people participated in the work that has gone into making our new magazine what it is. I want to thank especially Gordon Faylor, Open Space managing editor, whose insightful thinking and good humor have been invaluable over the last year of intense effort; Bosco Hernández, art director at SFMOMA, for his sensitivity and vision in translating our hopes and ethos into a beautifully responsive, interactive, human-centric design; and Jay Mollica, SFMOMA creative technologist, for grace and patience under a shower of panic, who, along with Keir Winesmith, plus our developers, Maxwell August Croy in Berlin and Zach Rubin-Rattet in Oakland, made the site into a living thing. Infinite thanks to Chad Coerver, SFMOMA’s chief content officer, whose support of Open Space and its goals has been unwavering since 2008.