Social media’s done the unthinkable again. This time, it’s managed to expand the subscriber base and change the writing style of art magazines that have so far catered only to the elite buying classes — in terms of language as well as relevance of content.
A case in point is ART India, which just celebrated its 16th year. One of India’s — and among South Asia’s — leading art magazines, it has just come out with the theme of Graphic Novels and Comics. On the cover is an evocative work by Sarnath Banerjee. Clearly, it’s directed towards youngsters, who’ve never really accounted for the quarterly’s circulation figures.
Is the market for these magazines undergoing a paradigm shift then? “The graphic novel scene in India is becoming very exciting. We have looked at different types of such books here and abroad. It is the first time that this theme has been explored in such depth. This is a subject that many young people feel passionately about,” says ART India’s founder, Sangita Jindal. In fact, they’ve even gone in for a revamp, with new designers and fresh ideas. Jindal adds, “Writers, artists, art historians, critics, scholars, students, as well as people curious about art read our magazine.
It is performing several functions at the same time. Many younger people are now reading it as well.” Her views are echoed by Rajendra, editor of Indian Contemporary Art Journal. “Galleries and even platforms like Facebook are helping increase our subscriber base. Younger buyers and collectors have been entering the market, and they’re all very good readers,” he explains, adding, “At the same time, we can’t stock it at outlets other than elite ones.
No one will buy it at a railway station!” Is the lofty technical language oft-associated with these tomes the reason? “Yes, we cater to different segments. A scholar is used to a certain kind of language; a journalist to another. ART India strives hard to be accessible to both. The language changes from slug to slug. A review is different from a lead feature, for example,” claims Jindal. But Rajendra offers a different perspective: “The earlier days are gone. Language is a lot more simplified now, and it’s even being read in art colleges. But it’s true that apart from artists themselves, we write more for the niche readers.”
Jindal concludes with hope: “We are a niche magazine, but our subscription base and readership is slowly rising. We are planning to come up with books as well. There are quite a few interesting projects we have in the pipeline.”