Elephant #6 —

Let’s be clear: Elephant’s particular view on contemporary art lies at the aesthetic end of the spectrum. This might fail to impress the more theoretical or conceptual standpoints that now occupy powerful positions of influence in the international art system, but it’s exactly the reason that the title appeals to younger audiences and those who, whilst loving art, have felt alienated by the intellectual voices of other specialist art titles or the art world itself. And, of course, Elephant is beautifully produced and pleasing on the eye, ironically, not always a quality inherent in ‘serious’ art magazines.

Furthermore, Elephant’s coverage crosses over into the realms of street culture and graphic design, something that is, perhaps, growing in its presence within the title. The article ‘The Glass Ceiling’ in issue 6 is a good case in point. Whilst the same debate could be raised – yes, still!- about the position of women artists, here it takes on the form of a very personal article by Astrid Stavro, instead turning its attention to women in the field of graphic design. In many ways, this is perhaps more pressing. For, if women artists have a long history of raising their voices about gender disparity in the art world, women graphic designers, for obvious reasons, may have had to remain silent. The graphics world, after all, is traditionally very much a ‘boy’s game’, not to mention that, as a far more industrial and commercial landscape, vocal political positions on gender inequality might well scare away the corporate clients.

That said, the issue has a number of eye-opening articles that are unquestionably about top quality visual art, including a feature article on acclaimed painter Chantal Joffe and Margherita Dessanay’s survey article ‘Cinematic Painting’ that profiles a clutch of international young talents whose work is based in cinema. However, it needs to be said that her failure to mention either Luc Tuymans or Gerhard Richter –the two artists responsible for even making this topic relevant to today’s contemporary art audience- leaves doubts as to the authority of the text.


    Elephant #6 –
    March 2011 212 Pages 0 Minutes of audio 0 Minutes of video
    In This Issue –
    Cinematic painting Beyond the glass ceiling: A open discussion between female graphic designers R2 Chantal Joffe Christine Berrie Coralie Bickford-Smith Jonathan Gibbs Fanette Mellier Si Scott Nomoco Interviews with creative Tokyoites
    Creative Director –
    Art Director –
    Elephant - Elephant #6  Elephant - Elephant #6  Elephant - Elephant #6  Elephant - Elephant #6  Elephant - Elephant #6  Elephant #6  Elephant - Elephant #6

Our Take —

Elephant is the baby brother in the stable that includes the lauded architecture and design titles Mark and Frame. Like its older siblings, the title is noted for strong art direction and high quality production values.

Despite the key editorial team being international and based primarily in Anglophone cultures, it nonetheless shares certain regional sensibilities with other titles by the same publishing house. This makes it a rather unusual addition to the international offer of titles covering contemporary art. For example, it’s not entirely clear why the editorial approach sees certain features highlighted: the representational, the illustrative and the decorative. Indeed, thus far, the majority of Elephant’s content has been devoted to fairly young or lesser-known artists. Many of them work with the visual languages that we more readily associate with street art, graphic design or even product design. The articles are hardly academic or intellectual and there is practically no contextualistaion of ‘the global art world’; no background info on the movers and shakers in key international institutions or behind-the-scenes information on key art world events. In fact, one gets the distinct feeling that those making Elephant are not particularly connected – or perhaps even interested in- the bigger contemporary art picture. At least not right now. However, referring to itself as ‘The Art & Visual Culture Magazine’ it would seem that these qualities are quite intentional. The term ‘visual culture’, for example, is commonly used in certain European cultural circles to denote all of those phenomena that have fundamentally arisen from popular culture rather than ‘fine art’.

All of this is relative. If you are an experienced aficionado of or work within the international contemporary art circuit, the title might feel like rather light fare; all beautiful surface and still needing to find gravitas. But, god knows its difficult enough for anyone to produce a tome of a title on contemporary art in the current climate so even the cynical should welcome this for-the-love-of-it effort. If, on the other hand, like its growing audience, your interest in contemporary art prefers something that is easy on the eye, accessible and devoid of the intellectual chicanery of more ‘serious’ art titles, then no doubt Elephant will prove exactly what you’ve been waiting for. 

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Culture Art

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