If you walk into any Barnes and Noble, you’ll see stacks of American Art Collector in the art publication section. For collectors and artists alike, American Art Collector is one of the gold standards of media, especially within the contemporary realism realm. At Era Contemporary, it was thrilling to see an artist that we also exhibit, Lucas Bononi, grace the front cover this fall. His piece was featured in a show through Haynes Galleries called “The Magic of Realism.” Congrats Lucas!
Needless to say, I’m a fan of the magazine. I caught up with Joshua Rose at an art gallery opening in New York. Down to earth and interested in everyone around him, I was surprised to learn that he is the founder and editor of some of the most well-known and respected art magazines in the country–not just American Art Collector. Joshua makes his home in Scottsdale, AZ, but travels often to the cities and art hubs of America. Kindly regarded by the artists and galleries he features, he seems like a modern-day patron of the arts, helping spread goodwill and providing artists with a national platform on which to exhibit their work. He kindly agreed to an interview, and over drinks shared his philosophy, ideas, and strategy for running his unique business.
JL: How would you define your position in the art world today?
JR: We do three magazines, I’m the editor of all three. One is the American Art Collector, which is more like kind of like contemporary realism, which you’re probably more familiar with. Then we do American Fine Art Magazine, which is a historic magazine. And then we do Western Art Collector, and that’s focusing on western art. So I see my position as the editor as to find out what’s happening in the top galleries around the country, who the artists are who are painting and who are very hot, with excellent standards. Our whole goal as a magazine is to get that work in front of collectors so that collectors will buy it and that galleries keep showing it, so I really try to find the best shows that are out there. I find the younger, more emerging artists but also the more estalished artists, that are having shows in galleries, and then put that in a format that collectors can easily access. I’m always looking for new things. I’m always looking for new galleries, I’m always looking for new artists– I never want to be stale. We’ve been doing this ten years, and we’ve introduced kind of a lot of artists into the mainstream market, so we are always looking to keep doing that.
JL: So how did you recognize that you were interested in the arts?
JR: I think that growing up, my parents always took us to art galleries and museums, and I always had an interest for it. I went to Europe when I was in college, and I just really wanted to go to the museums and see the art. I studied Literature, but I like the visual arts as well—I’ve always been a visual person, I like images, very strong images, and I’ve always been attracted to that. So when I did my Masters, I focused on William Blake, who is an English artist and poet. It combined the two of my loves, art and literature. So I studied his poetry but I also studied the art; how the visual art came through the poetry. I did my undergraduate in the University of Minnesota, and then I did my graduate degree in England– Wales. So I was over there, and I would go to London, see the shows, see what’s happening, go to the galleries, and just develop a love for it. I like the combination of the poetry and the art and how one lends to the other. So that’s what got me interested in it in grad school, and now it’s just like I can’t get enough—I just want to see all the art I can. You have to train your eye just to keep looking and keep seeing things.
JL: So what were some of your factors in your upbringing that influenced what you do today? Was there any inkling of what you would do?
JR: I always wanted to be a writer. My parents are both academics. My dad is a professor, and my mom teaches school. They were literature majors too, so they always had us reading, everything from the classics to popular novels. We went to Europe when I was a kid- my dad taught over there. They took us to all the museums, and all the galleries, and all the churches–anything of historical merit. So I think I developed an appreciation for the arts from that.
JL: So what do your magazines focus on? What’s the focus of each one?
JR: In American Art Collector, we focus on artists living and working today, and we focus on more representational art, but we are always expanding that. I think that it’s a very general term that’s always expanding itself, so we are always pushing it. Representational painting isn’t always representational, there’s very abstract qualities to it, so we like to see people who do it in very academic ways, and then people who are pushing it and adding very contemporary elements to realism being done today. And we are always very conscious of what’s available. We really want to show what’s happening at the minute. We don’t do articles just to do them, we do it on those we can ask, “Do you have something new? Are you doing new work? Do you have a show coming up?” I think it’s really important to keep it really current. And viable for people to see, so it’s never stagnant, it’s always new. We also do the previews, and the articles come out before the show opens. A lot of times when readers open the magazine, they are seeing the work for the first time. We beat the galleries, we beat the collectors—we show it first.
JL: Do you ever get in trouble for that—with the galleries?
JR: They like it, I think, because if an article comes out the month before a show, it’s good PR for them. But sometimes also, like with Brad Kunkle, his last show, we had our deadline on a Friday. And he said, well, I’m working on this one last piece, it’s amazing, can you wait until Monday? So we said ok, and it was this huge painting. And I said well why don’t we debut it in the magazine? I told him not to post it on social media, and when he finished it on Monday, we went to press Monday night, the next week it was in print and it came out. I wrote about it in my Editor’s note, first time shown to the public, and we made a big deal about it.
JL: Wow, that’s really special. I saw it in the magazine! And the other magazines?
JL: American Fine Art is the historical magazine, and so we do the same thing—work that’s coming up for sale in galleries, what’s selling in auctions, work that’s available. Not just museum shows–although we do cover those–but things that are coming into the market right now that collectors can acquire themselves.
The Western magazine overs shows and artists as well, but is focused on the Western market.
JL: That seems like it would be such a huge endeavor! So many details to put together three magazines constantly.
JR: It is! I travel a lot and that helps, because you’re seeing the artist, meeting the people, and seeing the work. I think our business is about relationships, and that’s what’s important to me. I love people and I love meeting people, and that kind of fuels the whole thing. I love coming to New York and seeing the artists, going to the galleries, meeting the people, seeing what they’er doing and what they’re excited about, and bringing that excitement to the magazine. It’s a very current kind of way, happening right now.
JL: What kind of work are you personally attracted to? What gets you interested in an artist and their work?
JR: I love work that has a narrative quality to it, and I love detail that is more implied than stated. I like to be moved emotionally—I’m a passionate person, so I like when I see an image and it kind of haunts you all day and makes you think about it. I love that feeling. It’s amazing that images, despite all the images we are bombarded with every day, they still have such power to them. To me when you see something that’s striking and it kind of catches you in the gut and you’re just blown away by it, I love that kind of emotional connection. I can’t really get that from contemporary art, that’s why I love painting so much. It just has that kind of emotional and symbolic quality, and the ability to make a statement without you don’t have to read a statement on the gallery wall that explains it—you see it, it hits you, that emotional connection to it.
JL: So what does your office setup look like? Where are you based out of?
JR: We’re based out of Scottsdale, AZ. It’s a mess! Well you can imagine, we get tons of stuff! So books, press releases… there’s always things coming in. But that’s our base. But this week I’m in New York, last week I was in Chicago, the week before in Santa Fe. So I am on the road quite a bit—just because that’s where our clients are. We have to go and meet our clients and see what’s happening there.
JL: How big is your staff?
JR: We have about twenty people. That’s editorial, production, graphic design, layout, sales people and circulation. I have a great staff and they’re very good at what they do. We are a magazine that is just about churching it out every month, but doing it in a quality way. You don’t lose the quality, so you have crazy deadlines,, but you want to maintain the high level of excellence at the same time. Otherwise there’s no point. If you’re just doing it to do it there’s no point. You need to be saying some stuff and making a statement and showing people.
JL: How do you make sure everything gets done by your team each month?
JR: I have help! I have a great staff who keeps track of everything. We have a very good system, and that’s something my publisher put together. It follows it through the process, so each story has a chronology, and you know where it is at all time. It also helps that my writers can turn things around quickly. I like to hire writers who have worked for newspapers before because they know what a deadline is—they can turn a story around pretty quickly, but still get the whole story. Like I said we never sacrifice quality, we always want it to be well done.
JL: So walk us through the cycle of production month to month.
JR: It gets crazy. Right now we are working two months ahead. So the first thing we do to start the next issue is to take time out and let all the people know who we are writing about for the next month. Because the hardest thing—you can write a story about someone in a relatively short time—for a magazine the hardest thing is to get the images, and to make sure that they are high quality, and well done and professionally shot. So we will start two months ahead and send an email letting them know we are doing a story, we will need images by this date. So as long as we can get the images in early, we can put the story together. And then the first day of a cycle is downtime—but it’s only a day! And then we are just doing interviews, talking to artists. I come up with a set schedule for the year—I always try to pick about twenty shows each month that we do the previews of, but then I’ll look, and some of those might be newer artists that just strikes me, and I’ll be like, let’s make this a six page article instead of a two page one, this is amazing work. So we pick a few artists or shows that go in depth that we really want to showcase. But also, I add. I might have a schedule worked out for each month, but if I see a show, that I like, I’m like, we need that in the magazine! I would feel like I’m not doing my job as an editor if I missed out on this person’s show. Some galleries are better than others at PR. If we have a week left on a deadline and I find out that Jacob Collins has a show at some gallery, I’m going to want to cover it. We need to cover those things, to be who we want to be in the industry. We are not afraid to add something at the last minute. Then we get to deadliness. We usually work on a four-week cycle. We stay late sometimes, but we have most of the things worked out— we’ve been doing it for ten years. We have a system now. There’s still a little drama sometimes, but for the most part it’s all good!
JL: Who would you say is your target audience?
JR: One problem I think with art magazines is if you don’t from the very beginning state “We’re a magazine for collectors,” a lot of people assume it’s for artists only, and then the galleries don’t want to advertise. Artists read our magazine and we know that and like that. But from the beginning what we have really said is that we are a magazine about buying art. We want everyone from casual to very serious collectors we want to read our magazine, so that’s why we make sure that everything is available for sale. We want people to be able to see it, find something they like, and call the gallery and buy it. We like that idea. We always said we wanted to connect. People are very passionate about art. Collectors are amazing people—they spend a lot of money on something that is not a need at all, it’s something that they like, that touches them, that they are passionate about. And their willingness to acquire it is what keeps the market going. So we like to be able to connect collectors to work that’s coming for sale.
JL: So what is your favorite part of your job?
JR: Oh man, I love to write. I LOVE to write. But I also love the interactions. I love meeting people, I love talking to galleries and seeing their work. I guess, really, feeling people’s excitement for it. It’s such an amazing industry. The artists are passionate, the gallery owners are passionate, the collectors are passionate, I love that kind of energy that comes from all of that, and seeing people falling in love with something. And gallery owners calling me and are like, “Josh, I picked up this new artist, it’s amazing, you have to see it!” and sharing in that experience. And then of course, the personal relationships. I always say if you have to work, you might as well work with friends. No one is taking advantage of each other, you’re all helping each other, it’s a win-win for everyone, and you get to have fun and work with people you like and you enjoy. To me there’s nothing more satisfying.
JL: What are some of the challenges of your job?
JR: The travel. I love it, but it also gets pretty difficult at times. I have a son at home, so that gets hard. I guess just the monthly schedule—it never stops. The good thing about it is that in some jobs you might have little projects that are the back of your desk that never get finished, but with magazines, once it’s finished, everything gets resolved. It’s like, DONE! I literally wipe my desk clean, and it all starts over again next month. I guess also another challenge is making sure you don’t get stale—introducing new artists, new galleries. The worst thing anyone can say to me is that I only cover work from the same artist from the same galleries each month. I’ll take that as a huge insult—I really want it to be something that’s always changing, always expanding, finding the new things that are out there.
JL: What are some plans you have for the magazine that you are excited about? Are there any new projects in the works?
JR: Definitely! With American Art Collector, we just launched a glass, ceramic and wood column in every issue. So I went out and I found really good experts in the field and I hired them to write columns for the magazine, authoritative columns on that subject matter, about things that are happening. And then the other thing is that we are doing all this online stuff. We relaunched the online magazine. We do this thing called upcoming shows online, and on the regular site, we might be able to publish 4 or 5 paintings in a show, but you go to www.upcomingshowsonline.com, and you’ll be able to see the entire show. It’s really cool, and they can actually email the gallery owner from there. So that’s kind of another tool to help people. It’s got a neat interface and is user friendly.
JL: Tell us some of the greatest artists you think to have ever lived?
JR: Well, I love American Impressionism. The American artists can hold up just as easily to the French Impressionists—you look at work by Sargent, and Cassatt, and some of the great Impressionists, and they were right there, at the same time. Sargent painted Monet in the gardens, they were friends, working alongside each other. So I think American Impressionism gets a short shrift and it needs to be elevated because it really deserves it. I love the work of a lot of Modernists as well, because they are right there at the point where they are taking representational art and turning it into more modernist ideas. And then Wyeth, I love Andrew Wyeth.
JL: What do you admire most about the life and work of artists?
JR: Ok, so what really gets me is artists who are kind of figments of their own creative imagination. They are the work. They live it, and it’s a part of them, and there’s no separation of church and state. They’re it, they are their work themselves, and they are kind of part of the world they have created.
JL: It’s like they’re creating this world that they want to be in, they belong in.
JR: Right, or that makes the world a better place for you– like “Ok I can deal with this now!” But I love that idea. Just the whole creative process. I mean, I can barely write my name, and then just to see what someone can do with a pencil, just a pencil, and you’re like how? How does that happen? It just blows me away. I think that’s really hard to create a work of art about something beautiful that is beautiful in itself. Where does that beauty come from? And I think in the contemporary art world they dismiss beauty because it’s so simplified, but it’s not. I think it’s a very complex thing, and it’s not an easy thing to attain in a work of art, and there’s so many levels of beauty that go into art, but when you’re able to create something like that that moves the viewer, that causes them to have an emotional connection to it, that’s not easy to obtain. It blows me away every time.
JL : If you were an artist, what would your work look like?
JR: Probably—well I love nature, and animals—I love the beauty that you see in nature, and wildlife and the animals that inhabit it. It’s something that I was always drawn to, so probably something like that if I could—and I love the way Andrew Wyeth captures that. That’s what I love to write about (nature) so that’s what I would probably paint about too. But I’m totally fine not painting. People ask me, “Do you paint?” I’m like, no, I don’t want to. I want to admire it, write about it, think about it, but I could never do it and that’s fine with me.
JL: How do you balance work and life?
JR: Not very well! Well I’m lucky in that what I do is what I love, so literally I couldn’t have dreamed of a better job. If I’m at home I’m reading about art or looking at art, so you know I just got lucky that that’s what I get to do as a living. To me it’s all one. I put everything into it personally and professionally.
JL: Well it definitely shows, in a good way!
JR: Thank you. I always want it to be better. I always say complacency breeds mediocrity, so I would never want to get complacent– I always want to keep pushing it and pushing it, like “what haven’t we done?” Keep the road kind of elevated all the time. I always want to be tinkering with ways it could be better.
JL: What are the challenges or advantages of working in the midwest, which is arguably not the center of the art world?
JR: Right, you know it’s a nice base. I feel like when I’m out and about I can see all these things but when I come home, I can just be come, be with my son, chill at home, do my thing, and fly under the radar. And then when I go out I can be social , but when I’ m home, I’m just home.
JL: What advice do you have for aspiring artists or writers?
JR: I would say just do it. Just make it happen. I see a lot of these workshops where it’s about how can you do better PR or how you can market your work better. I think the only thing you can do is make your work better. If your work is good, people are going to find it. Galleries will find you. So the best thing anyone can do—a writer, an artist, a painter, is to keep working on your craft. Doing it, pushing it, and if the quality is there, it speaks for itself. You don’t need to market it, you don’t’ need to promote it. And I always say, people aren’t that different. If you connect to it, there are going to be other people that connect to it. So you don’t have to worry about, “Well, if I paint this style is there going to be people who connect to it?” If you’re honest to yourself and true to your own emotional qualities, that will come out in the work. And people will connect with it. People go through the same things. We all have the same issues that we deal with, and ideas about beauty and life and love. If its true to you than theres going to be other people who connect with it too. So just do the work! Just keep going and don’t give up and those things will come. Quality speaks volumes. Be in your studio and make it happen.
See the magazines Joshua Rose is editor of by clicking the links below.
American Art Collector
Western Art Collector
American Fine Art Magazine
International Artist Magazine
Article written by Jessica Libor.