Before she became a photography and art critic for The New Yorker (1988), before she took the helm of Interview magazine (1989) and before she added a contributing editor role with Vanity Fair (1997), Ingrid Sischy was the unlikely editor of Artforum magazine. The beloved South African native, who passed away Friday at the age of 63 from breast cancer, arrived at Artforum in late 1979 and immediately made a splash with her first issue (February 1980).
From an October 1986 profile in The New Yorker by Janet Malcolm:
When the issue arrived on newsstands, it caused a great stir. It was utterly unlike any previous issue of Artforum. The contributors included the photographer William Wegman, the English conceptual artists Gilbert and George, the conceptual artist Joseph Buys, the performance artist Laurie Anderson, the editors of the radical feminist magazine Heresies and the editors of the art journal Just Another Asshole, and the whole thing had an impudent, aggressively unbuttoned, improvised yet oddly poised air…
The cover of Sischy’s first issue was a reproduction of the cover of the first issue of an avant-garde magazine of the forties called VVV… Sischy had borrowed the original cover from David Hare, VVV’s former editor. Someone who had not come from John Szarkowski‘s [Museum of Modern Art] photography department might not have been as overjoyed as Sischy was by the cigarette burn and the spills that stained it, but she correctly gauged the surreal beauty that these ghostly traces of past life would assume when photographed, and also the sense of quotation marks that they would help impart to the notion of a cover about a cover.