The Story of ART – an interview with Richard Storey and Jodie Inkson

art magazine

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the final issue of ART, the stunning magazine produced by the RWA between 2010 and 2012. Here, ART’s editor Richard Storey and art director Jodie Inkson recall the excitement (and stress) of creating a top quality arts publication from a standing start…

I admit that when I reached into the carrier bag modestly handed to me by Richard Storey and pulled out a magazine, I wasn’t expecting much. So as I clapped eyes on issue 11 of ART my jaw hit the proverbial floor. It was beautiful. A detail from Simon Quadrat RWA’s eerie painting Girl by the Piano stretched full bleed across the smooth matt front cover, overlaid with text in a gorgeous white serif typeface. Inside, the pages burst with stunning artworks, photography and stories, all very clearly typeset with painstaking care. 

Then, flicking through the rest of the issues, the astonishing quality of the content also revealed itself…  Views of Picasso and Warhol by people who actually knew them, interviews with Sir David Attenborough and Joan Bakewell, insights from Aidan Hart and Brian Sewell…

Clearly this was a magazine that deserved to be brought back into the light. So a few weeks later I arranged to meet up again at the new RWA café with Richard and with the designer behind the striking look, Jodie Inkson of Fable, to find out more about the story of ART…

How did ART magazine come about?

Richard: There was already a Friends’ newsletter in existence in 2010, but the Board of Trustees of the time wanted to do something that reached out beyond internal matters and positioned the RWA as a leading voice for creative arts in the South West.  I was already writing for the Friends and I’d been introduced to Jodie, and we decided to pitch a broader arts magazine.

Jodie: I’d moved to Bristol from London and set up Fable, a creative agency. I loved art and the RWA and saw this as a chance to design something that was about my passions. Richard had such amazing vision and energy, and we realised there was enormous potential. Richard had a long list of ideas for articles, enough for the first four or five issues, and I created the look and feel.

The design of ART is immediately striking – it’s dynamic and very contemporary even a decade on. What was the inspiration and the thinking behind it?

Jodie: It needed to be able to showcase the artists’ works, so lots of space, big double page spreads. It had to be something that reflected the status and beauty of the RWA itself. Something that was lovely to pick up and keep, that would sit on coffee tables and bookshelves and be talked about. 

Richard: Until Jodie showed us the first mock-up, nobody had any idea of just how good it would look. Incidentally, one clever thing Jodie introduced was the idea of printing on the spine of each magazine, so that if you collected all the issues and stacked them in a pile or put them together on a shelf it would spell out ‘ART’. That was part of the idea of making it a thing people would keep.

There’s a lot involved in launching a magazine. How did you go about getting it off the ground? 

Richard: We had to pitch to the Trustees in competition with other candidates, and we’d set out the vision for ART and of course I was very excited about it. But after I got the call to say we’d been successful, I had a sudden realisation of the scale of the task… I mean, I literally woke up at 4am in a cold sweat, thinking ‘Oh God, what have I let myself in for?’

Jodie: Richard’s energy is inspiring and he soon assembled a whole team of contributors as well as people to help with the administrative side, like advertising and distribution. ART was a genuine ‘South West’ publication, not just a Bristol one. We had distributors from Southampton down to St Ives.

Richard: I’d worked for years in newspaper advertising. And really the adverts are a part of the editorial in ART – they’re galleries, framers, craftspeople and so on, so they added to the look and appeal of the magazine, as well as bringing in revenue.

The next striking thing is the quality of the content. ART is full of great writing, and interviews with international names from the art and cultural worlds, from Sir David Attenborough to Sister Wendy Beckett, Howard Jacobson to Jack Vettriano. How on earth did you manage it?

Richard: Extraordinary luck and osmosis, mostly. Over and over again, things just seemed to fall into my lap. A good example is in issue 2, in which we had an extensive interview with André Villers, who for 20 years was effectively Picasso’s official photographer. That came from a chance meeting I had in France and I got an introduction to meet Villers at his home in the Var. So we had an article full of exclusive reminiscences from someone who knew Picasso intimately, plus some amazing photographs from inside his studio.

Jodie: You also knew Sarah Dalton, who was a close friend of Andy Warhol, which gave us some brilliant material….

Richard: Another important thing was that we quickly got hold of a very good interviewer in Mike Whitton. We would give Mike the big names like Brian Sewell, Brian May, Joan Bakewell…. He did really good, sharp interviews.

What was also amazing was that soon people started approaching us to be featured, just because the magazine was such high quality. 

Do you regret that it had to cease publication in 2012?

Richard: Yes, very much. It is expensive to create, print and distribute a magazine like this, even with the advertising clawing something back. Circumstances changed at the RWA and ART didn’t fit with the budget.

Jodie: We did achieve a lot of what we set out to do. We know that people did discover the RWA and become Friends and even patrons after seeing the magazine. 

Richard: There is a legacy. For example, Alice Hendy started with us on ART, and she’s still the RWA’s principal photographer.

What was most enjoyable about running ART?

Richard: Working with Jodie, absolutely. Funnily enough, Jodie is the world’s most vigorous proofer. Nothing got past her…I thought I could proofread but Jodie’s attention to detail totally eclipses mine.

Jodie: We used to have great fun working together. Richard had a very strong editorial vision and voice. It was a labour of love. 

So you’d be up for resurrecting ART, if the opportunity arose?

Jodie: Absolutely.

Richard: Jodie and I meet regularly, and we ruminate and cogitate about how we could resurrect it. If we could find the funding, ART would ride again!

All images credit Fable

The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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