Today the Midwest, Tomorrow the World

Caryn Koplik was cruising the Reader classifieds on the Web late last year when she came across a help wanted ad from the New Art Examiner. Koplik was an acquisitions editor at Syracuse University Press looking for a challenge. The Examiner, blessed with a juicy (but unspecified) donation from real estate developer and arts patron Lewis Manilow, was looking to fill its publisher’s slot (vacant for three years) and then to reinvent itself as a more focused and influential art journal. Koplik’s resumé–ten years of marketing for Wall Street investment firms followed by an MFA in creative writing before she took up the book business–landed her the job. She’s been on board since January. The new New Art Examiner will be unveiled this week.

It’s an expansion built on contractions. The not-for-profit magazine will drop from ten issues a year to six and its coverage will shrink from national (and international) to regional. “We’re not going to be doing New York or LA,” says editor Kathryn Hixson. “Reviews and recommended shows will be from the greater midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.” The idea is to build a regional magazine with an international following, something on the order of London’s Frieze. “People complain nobody knows what’s happening in Chicago ’cause there’s no press on it,” Hixson says. “Now there will be.” For the publication, founded as an eight-page tabloid in Chicago in 1973, it’s a return to coverage for an underserved area.

While the number of issues shrinks, the first one’s page count has jumped from 72 to 116 and page size will go from 81/2 by 11 to 9 by 12, part of a redesign by Jason Pickleman. Most important, about 85 percent of the magazine will be in color. No more of those fuzzy, mud-in-your-eye images that have been its bane. “The visual part of the magazine is pumped up way high,” Hixson says, and “the ratio of text to pictures is changing: if you have a two-page, four-color photo, you don’t have to describe it. The mix–reviews, features, news, and interviews–will be pretty much the same. We’ll cover art shown here as well as art made here.”

The print run is also getting boosted, from 5,000 copies in April (2,500 go to subscribers, the other half to newsstands) to 10,000 for May and 7,000 for July. “We’re going to send issues to every important art person around the world,” Hixson says. Newsstand price is going up from $4.75 to $8, but the annual subscription price of $35 will drop to $31 on an open-ended introductory offer. There’ll be a push for subscriptions at Art Chicago 2001, and a 60,000-piece direct-mail drive. Ad sales have already taken off, Hixson says. “We usually sell 8 pages, sometimes 12. But when we took this new design and went out to sell ads we sold 36 pages for the first issue. We had to turn people away.” They’ll celebrate the relaunch at a benefit dinner and auction April 28 at Arena Gallery. Five artists from each of the eight midwestern states the New Art Examiner will cover were asked to donate work; like the U.S. Senate, that puts Iowa on equal footing with Illinois.

Waiting at the Station

Lewis Manilow’s donation to the New Art Examiner was the result of four years of talking and a long-term relationship with the magazine, Hixson says. It was “good timing,” she adds, since he was “done with the Goodman Theatre.” Manilow contributed a million dollars to the new Goodman, and spearheaded development of the North Loop theater district, which won him an award from the Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation earlier this month. Two weeks ago he presided over the opening of an Anselm Kiefer exhibit from his private collection at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum, which will open a show next month that includes five ancient Buddhist sculptures he recently donated. But a plan he announced in 1999 for creating a visual arts center in the old Continental Trailways Bus Terminal at Roosevelt and Wabash is in trouble. The center, which he hoped would be the core for a new gallery district, was supposed to have opened last fall. Manilow envisioned a beehive of young and established galleries, collectors’ spaces (including one of his own), and exhibition areas. So far, progress has been zero.

“I wasted a lot of time and a lot of money on that,” Manilow says. “We’ve been slowed down because of the developer on the Michigan Avenue side. Our two properties are linked. I thought he’d be ready to go a long time ago.” The Michigan Avenue project is Gallery Park Place, a 41-story, $80 million condominium tower on the site of the former Avenue Motel being developed by Chicago Plan Commission member Allison Davis. “I don’t own the property yet, nor does he,” Manilow says. “Now it looks like we might be starting

the [acquisition] process in the next month or so. It’s a complicated financial transaction. The city has tied the sale of the condo site to the redevelopment of the bus station.”

The price for both properties is $5.85 million. Manilow thinks he can still create some kind of cultural center there: “The waiting room is fabulous,” he says. “Seventeen-foot ceilings and no columns. But it won’t be the art galleries I had planned. All the galleries I lined up have found spaces in the Peoria and Washington area.”

Catching Up With Dean Olds

David Rorie was working as an assistant film editor and thinking he’d like to be an HBO documentary maker when Dean Olds’s civil trial was all over the local media. The sensational story–in which Olds’s young German boyfriend was tried and acquitted of the fatal bludgeoning of Olds’s wife in the garage of their Wilmette home and Olds, once a top patent attorney, was defending himself in a civil case brought by his children–looked like ripe material to Rorie. Four years, $22,000, and a lot of imposing on friends later, Rorie is ready to screen Shattered Lives: The Dean Olds Story. “Dean was very depressing and very sad,” he says, but easily convinced to do an interview in his small apartment in Laguna Beach.

“His children would never talk to me.” The 55-minute film includes interviews with the boyfriend, Helmut Carsten Hofer; a juror; a lawyer; and local activist Charlotte Newfeld, who befriended Hofer. These are interspersed with television news clips and long shots of Wilmette mansions, backed by spooky original music. Rorie is having a private showing this Saturday, April 28, at the Vic. Anyone in-terested in getting an invite can call him at 312-409-3080.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J.B. Spector.