Audrey & Vicente, balcony
Audrey Rose Smith and Vicente Muñoz have just launched art magazine balcony from New York. Its refreshing view of the art world ignores the usual work-fixated narratives of art publishing in favour of the intimate and everyday—the magazine is made up of conversations with artists about their lives.
Both founders are familiar with the art world—Audrey works for David Zwirner Gallery in New York and creative director Vicente Muñoz is a visual artist and designer who is in the process of launching a design practice in the city. This gives them access to the world they cover, of course, but also underscores their unique angle with the knowledge and experience to make the everyday revealing.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
Mondays are like most any other day for us - we usually get up around 7am and make coffee and breakfast. Vicente has an old hand-grinder for his beans so our morning is almost always filled with a few quick arm rotations to get the beans ground and the blood going.
From there we often kick around the living room and go through things we need to do that day. Audrey works for David Zwirner Gallery and is usually out of the house by 9am and I leave for my studio shortly thereafter. We are both morning people so our mornings are often filled with coffee, breakfast and a seemingly never-ending balcony to-do list!
Describe your desk and your work space
Our workspace is anywhere and everywhere and most typically from our dining room table. We have a very well-used Vitsoe shelving system that houses a good portion of our books, desktop computer and things. Our two art directors/ designers, Ben-Fehrman Lee and Julia Novitch, are located in different parts of the world, so when we meet with them, it’s always over Zoom. We have yet to all be in a room together, but we’re confident that day will come soon!
Are you feeling optimistic about the future?
We are, yes! Covid has been tragic in so many ways, but it has also pushed us, and we feel others, to look firmly towards the things we hold dear and care for most. It’s fortified friendships, our relationship even, and inspired us toward realizing some big dreams.
Which magazine do you first remember?
(Audrey): I remember The New Yorker. My parents had a subscription and I liked filling in the suggested punch line for that week's cartoon. I always thought the articles were much too long but I enjoyed the poetic interludes.
I also remember the price going up each year by about 25 cents. As a child it was amusing to line up a bunch of copies and see how the price increased over the years. An early life-lesson—things become more expensive over time!
(Vicente): It is not my earliest memory of magazine’s but it is an important one. I always admired Foam Magazine for the way in which it portrayed and pushed the role of photography, combining older artists with young ‘fresher’ work. I also have memories of sitting down with old piles of Andre Bloc’s L’Architecture D’Aujourd’hui and devouring them.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
San Rocco is lying on our daybed in the living room right now, a copy from 2013. We love this magazine and it’s format and tone (insightful, curious but never pretentious) was something long admired and aspired to with balcony.
Describe Balcony in three words.
Intimate. Atemporal. Humanistic.
As an artist yourself, what do you hope to do differently with balcony’s coverage of art?
We both are deeply immersed in the ‘Art World’—Audrey working for David Zwirner and Vicente as an artist and designer. With balcony, our vision was to invert some of the logic around how we read about art. In most art magazines, the artwork as a material object is prioritized over the artist as a person. And then it’s pegged to an exhibition opening or a biennial taking place, ultimately a commercially-driven timeline.
With balcony, we want to place an emphasis on the personal and the atemporal. If most art magazines enter through the front door, we’re quite happy going through the side door and even the backdoor.
Recording the everyday and keeping it interesting is a challenge! How much work and editing is required to ensure the conversations are the right balance?
Editing is an art. We love the intimacy of live conversations—the meandering thoughts and the humorous interludes, the environmental sounds heard in the background. We try our best to edit as honest to the transcript as possible, minus a few ums and buts. But it’s also about the context. The everyday isn’t just about something being casual or intimate. It’s about the genuine interests of the subject you're profiling.
For example is our story with Ivan Navarro, a Chilean artist whose work is known world-wide, but whose decades-long music label and love for music is seldom discussed. We’re interested in the things around the thing. What interests, personal histories, likes and dislikes, inform the person and then in turn inform the art.
To that end and from that story is one of my favorite images in the first issue—a picture of Ivan napping in his studio. I don’t think anything says ‘art in the everyday’ quite like a nap in the studio.
Did any artists you approached refuse to engage with the everyday, fearing this direction would undercut the 'mystique' of the artist?
Not one. And if that was ever the case, I don’t think we’d be so inclined to work with them, so the feeling would be mutual and that’s just fine too. The artists we engage are excited, if not somewhat relieved, to not have to talk about their work in such a traditional way. Our suspicion is that this is a widely shared sentiment.
It’s a remarkable launch issue; what have you learned from the process that you'll apply to issue two?
Thank you! It feels surreal to have it in our hands. We learned that sometimes it’s best to not ask for too much advice or feedback. Trust your instinct just go. Practically speaking, we’ve learned a lot about VAT and Brexit.
What will be your highlight of the coming week?
We are going to Italy and Switzerland for a bit of holiday with friends and family! Much needed after a hot summer in the city.