The Brooklyn Rail

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The Brooklyn Rail
Cover of the July/August 2009 issue
Categories Art, political, culture, progressive, literature
Frequency Monthly
Total circulation
First issue September 2000
Country United States
Based in Brooklyn
Language American English
ISSN 2157-2151

The Brooklyn Rail is a journal of arts, culture, and politics published monthly in Brooklyn, NY. The journal features in-depth interviews with artists, critics, and curators, as well as critical essays, fiction, and poetry, and coverage of music, dance, film, and theater. The Brooklyn Rail is free and is distributed in galleries, universities, museums, bookstores, and other cultural venues throughout New York City and Brooklyn, including Anthology Film Archives, The Brooklyn Public Library, The Brooklyn Museum, MoMA PS1, BAM, La MaMa, The Kitchen, Columbia University School of the Arts, The New School, and Yale University, among others.[1] The Rail also operates a small press that publishes literary translations, poetry, and art criticism under Rail Editions, and organizes panel discussions, poetry and fiction reading, film screenings, music and dance performances, and supports exhibitions through its program the Rail Curatorial Projects.


Started as a broadsheet in 1998, the Rail became a full-format publication in 2000, under the direction of publisher Phong Bui and then-editor Theodore Hamm. It was originally to be read on the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn, but quickly expanded to its current form. Hamm notes that the Rail's non-profit funding, largely provided by private donors, has preserved the magazine's original aspiration to publish a crucible of "slanted opinions, artfully delivered."[2]

Mission and operation[edit]

The Rail, organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is unusual for a periodical in that the respective editor of each section has editorial autonomy. Sections include: Field Notes (political coverage and commentary), Art (interviews with artists and art historians), Artseen (reviews of art exhibits), Art Books (reviews of art publications), Books (reviews of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry), Music (album and concert reviews), Dance (dance criticism), Film (film criticism), Theater (theater and performance criticism), Fiction (original and newly translated fiction), and Poetry (experimental poetry). Each issue, from February 2012 onwards, also includes a Critics Page section directed by a guest editor that focuses on a particular critical theme or issue.[3]


The Rail's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Phong Bui is an artist, writer, curator, and the former curatorial advisor of MoMA PS1 (2007-2010). The Rail's rotating guest editorship has thus far included critics such as Robert Storr, Carter Ratcliff, Elizabeth Baker, Bill Berkson, Mary Ann Caws, Ken Johnson, and Barbara Ross, among others.

Sara Roffino is the Rail's managing editor and Sara D. Christoph is the managing director. Both are contributing writers. Anna Tome, Maggie Barrett, and Cy Morgan lead the Rail Curatorial Projects.


The Brooklyn Rail has been endorsed by a number of prominent members of the New York art and literary community. The American painter and photographer Chuck Close called the Rail, "This generation's organ of choice in which art historians, critics, and artists themselves weigh in on the most significant art being shown as well as little known and often overlooked work by emerging, middle, and older aged artists."

Robert Storr has called it "the murmur of the city in print." Paul Auster has said that it "covers the waterfront in a highly responsible and original way, mixing controversial political journalism with poetry, the arts, and nearly everything else of importance in this complex, ever-changing city." Former Nation publisher Victor Navasky considered it "a non-establishment paper that questioned the establishment's assumptions without falling victim to the counterculture's pieties."

For the late Nancy Spero, the paper was "an eminently readable, informative, and intellectually wide-ranging publication, alert to current trends, controversies, and ideas, and filled with necessary information." John Ashbery called it "a newspaper that cares about literature and the arts and isn't afraid to say so."

The Late Henry Luce III once noted that, "Years ago the most famous newspaper in Brooklyn was the Brooklyn Eagle. The rail is also a bird, and so it is fitting that the Eagle’s successor is The Brooklyn Rail. It is a splendid publication that covers the arts, politics, and culture. I heartily recommend it.” [4]

Other projects[edit]

In addition to the print journal, the Rail runs Rail Editions, a small press, and the Rail Curatorial Project.

  • In 2013, Rail Editions published The Brooklyn Rail Fiction Anthology 2, edited by Donald Breckenridge, the Rail's fiction editor.
  • In 2013, The Brooklyn Rail established Brooklyn Rail Curatorial Projects, an initiative to make manifest the goals of the publication within an exhibition context.
  • In 2012, Rail Editions published "Texts on (Texts on) Art," a collection of essays by the art historian Joseph Masheck.
  • In 2010, Rail Editions published Pieces of a Decade: Brooklyn Rail Nonfiction 2000-2010, edited by Theodore Hamm and Williams Cole.
  • In 2006, Hanging Loose Press published The Brooklyn Rail Fiction Anthology, edited by Donald Breckenridge.

Notable interviews[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]