Interview Magazine was once the very embodiment of everything New York City itself represented: prescience, rebellion, avant-gardeness, not giving a fuck, being anti-establishment, being ahead of the curve on all things art. Originally started by Andy Warhol at one of the peaks of New York’s artistic renaissances, 1969, the publication was acquired by art collector and billionaire (for don’t you kind of have to be a billionaire to collect art?) Peter Brant in 1989. But even without Warhol’s signature business plan of alluring head honcho types with money for the publication by dangling the promise of featuring their chic wives or girlfriends on the cover, the magazine still thrived as a go-to source for what was “in.” Plus, it gave Warhol the twisted pleasure of being able to tantalize people with the promise of putting them on the cover, at one point admitting, “I tell everyone they can be on the cover of Interview.” It was a form of currency, this level of fifteen minutes of fame.
Under the editorships of Bob Colacello (an OG of writing film reviews in the also now defunct emblem of NYC cool, The Village Voice) and, subsequently, Ingrid Sischy (who reigned from 1989 to 2008, which is possibly why there are so many good Madonna covers), the magazine changed shape, becoming more cohesive with regard to its pop culture slant. Though, granted, there was a time when Fran Lebowitz, circa 1972, was writing columns for it in her signature tone of tongue-in-cheek disappointment. That sort of literary bent somewhat remained over the years, but eventually, Interview (or InterVIEW, as it was once stylized in Andy’s day) succumbed to the challenges that every print magazine has faced in the past twenty years: contending with a lack of readership, therefore lack of sales, therefore lack of that many interested investors.
Interview shouldered on the past few years just as New York has: completely ignoring that everything is crumbling around it, i.e. the ability of artists to exist in a city that has, increasingly, only seemed to open its arms San Francisco-style to douchebags with money: the person who can buy the condo, the person who can stomach a nine to six corporate job, the person who enjoys attending art events only if there is some sort of Instagram-usable shtick to it. The welcoming of this ilk has, of course, vastly changed the landscape and dynamic of the city. Even and especially in Brooklyn, where commodification of “the artist’s life” comes in the form of drinking alcohol from overpriced mason jars and a predilection for espousing the gig economy, which hardly leaves enough time to pursue any actual artistic endeavor (one must extensively clean their Airbnb’d apartment in between guests, after all, lest they don’t get that proverbial “four out of five” rating).
Interview, too, had to change course to meet the demands of its waning audience, shifting toward a tone more resembling a fashion magazine promoting the agendas of art directors and stylists than a “Crystal Ball of Pop.” That still didn’t prevent the turmoil of the last few months, which saw employees locked out of the SoHo offices in February as a result of unpaid rent, being sued for backpay by the editorial director, Fabien Baron, and having stylist/creative director Karl Temper accused of sexual misconduct, as featured an in a detailed exposé for The Boston Globe. With all these undeniable fires that had so long been permitted to burn, the (lackluster) writing was on the wall for the once venerable publication. Its demise has also, however, brought up another glaring correlation: New York has no foresight for cool anymore, so content to rest on its laurels of being New York has it been. This isn’t to say that that couldn’t change (we all saw the mid-00s renaissance of the town, did we not?), or that Interview could magically rise from the ashes if purchased by another rich person who wants to play the hero to the arts. But it will never be the same, which is why, perhaps you find yourself occasionally walking the streets wondering: why am I actually here if I’m not able to enjoy being a promiscuous alcoholic/writer? “Enjoy” being a code word for “afford.” Or, more to the point, why am I here if all anyone wants to talk about is money, not art or ideas or even what city you originally come from.
Will New York ever be “over”? Of course not. It is the permanent prom king of the world. But it might not necessarily hold the same cachet to a person who has seen it through rose-colored lenses blackened by the boots of “the man” and his thirst for the spread of Midtown meets the Financial District throughout the land.