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
Publisher Phong Bui
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 based in New York City. Coverage includes local reporting, art criticism, fiction, and poetry, as well as coverage of music, dance, film and theater. The journal also publishes a small press imprint focused on literary translation, poetry, and art criticism called Black Square Editions.

Started as a broadsheet in 1998, the Rail became a full-format publication in 2000, under the direction of publisher Phong Bui and editor Theodore Hamm. The Rail is distributed, free, monthly, to museums, galleries, cafes, and other cultural venues throughout New York City, including Anthology Film Archives, PS1, BAM, La MaMa, The Kitchen, and Columbia University. Chuck Close has called it, "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."

Mission and operation[edit]

The Rail, organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is unusual, for a periodical, in that it does not have an Editor-in-Chief. The respective editor of each of its sections has editorial autonomy. Sections include: Local (local reporting), Express (international political coverage and commentary), Art (interviews with artists and art historians), Artseen (reviews of art exhibits), Art Books (reviews of artists' 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 fiction, newly translated fiction), and Poetry (experimental poetry).[1]


The Rail's publisher Phong Bui is an artist, curator, and former curatorial advisor of PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, a Museum of Modern Art affiliate. In 2012, the Rail has experimented with a rotating guest editorship, which has thus far included critics such as Robert Storr, Carter Ratcliff and Ken Johnson.

The Local and Express editor, Theodore Hamm, is a professor of urban studies at Metropolitan College of New York. John Reed edits the Books section and Anselm Berrigan the poetry section.


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."

Other projects[edit]

The Rail commissioned a drawing by William Powhida called How the New Museum Committed Suicide with Banality for the cover of the November 2009 issue. The drawing featured caricatures of individuals involved in the controversial Skin Fruit exhibition at the New Museum, including Jeff Koons.[2]

  • In 2006, Hanging Loose Press published The Brooklyn Rail Fiction Anthology, edited by Donald Breckenridge, the Rail's fiction editor.
  • The Brooklyn Rail / Black Square Editions is also publishing forthcoming original work by Franck Andre Jamme, Pierre Reverdy, Jean Freman and Jonas Mekas.
  • Pieces of a Decade: Brooklyn Rail Nonfiction 2000-2010, October 2010.
  • In 2013, The Brooklyn Rail established Brooklyn Rail Curatorial Projects, an initiative to make manifest the goals of the publication within an exhibition context.

Notable interviews[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hamm, Theodore. "What the Hell is the Brooklyn Rail?". The Huffington Post. September 27, 2010
  2. ^ Pogrebin, Robin. "Other Voices on the New Museum's Exhibition". New York Times. November 11, 2009.
  3. ^ Smith, Roberta, "Art, A Balm After the Storm" New York Times, December, 12, 2013

External links[edit]