CAA now refers to The Art Bulletin as “the leading publication of international art-historical scholarship,” and has done so for about a year it seems. This proposition seems worthy of debate. The leading publication? (Is that word “international” hedging the claim? Is “scholarship”? Or “art-historical”?) Elsewhere CAA has referred to The Art Bulletin as “the preeminent journal for art historians, curators, independent scholars, and educators” and “the leading quarterly journal in the English language of scholarship in all areas of art history and visual studies.”
Various outside bodies have tried to rank journals, using citation indexes or expert assessments or both. In 2008 The European Science Foundation gave 112 art-related journals its highest rating, including The Art Bulletin. Norway has its own list, which strikes me as idiosyncratic. The Art Bulletin, Art History, The Burlington Magazine, Leonardo and Oxford Art Journal all belong in the second rank, below 118 other journals?
Perhaps the most interesting rankings are those produced by Australia in 2010. It gave its highest ranking to seven “art theory and criticism” publications: The Art Bulletin, Art History: journal of the Association of Art Historians, Art Journal (also published by CAA), The Burlington Magazine, Ligeia: dossiers sur l’art, October, and Renaissance Quarterly. I must confess I haven’t read Ligeia in years (none of the major universities near me even carry it). Renaissance Quarterly is too general a publication to compare with The Art Bulletin. The other four seem worthy competitors to The Art Bulletin‘s claim for pre-eminence.
Why not call yourself “a leading journal”? It’s healthy for journals to compete and to take pride in their accomplishments. But to claim top status — without evidence or even argumentation — seems immodest and pointless. No matter how superlative any one art journal gets, it’s unlikely to become a true authority, nor should it.