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Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 11:26 am
Struggling art magazines

These are hard times indeed for the magazine industry, as a quick visit to the cheery reaper who presides over the Magazine Death Pool will confirm. The hooded skeleton (Death lives, obviously, on the far side of the Atlantic) has this month been rattling chains around Urb, Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Ebony, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune.

On my recent travels I did a bit of newsstand browsing and couldn't help noticing a new phenomenon, which is probably not so much a danger sign as a condition of survival in bleak times: the magazine written by a sole contributor. I exaggerate slightly, but it seems to me that i-D magazine is written these days pretty much entirely by editor Ben Reardon, and Chronic'Art magazine by the indefatigable Olivier Lamm (who's written a lengthy Momus feature for the mag, due in a week or so). Meanwhile Modern Painters magazine had its entire editorial team replaced recently by one new editor, apparently a former copywriter from Ralph Lauren. And let's not talk about the other ID, which saw its entire editorial team axed earlier in the year.

Mags I've read over the last couple of weeks: The Wire, Palais (the Palais de Tokyo's magazine, which is more like a handbook to their exhibitions, and whose texts tend toward the zero-degree of curatorial cliché), Chronic'Art (great for a long train journey, if you read french), The New Statesman (because they sent me a copy of the edition my Brel piece appeared in) and, online, The London Review of Books, which is priceless and free (great article on The Spirit Level recently, and a strong article on Rape-Rape by Jenny Diski in the current one). I think I also leafed through Vice, though I'm not really feeling Vice these days, either because I'm getting old or because Vice is; perhaps both. I noticed, though, that The Evening Standard has just gone free in London, and that Vice pioneered that particular pricing model. And I think that Vice did, in some ways, become a, if not the, defining mag of the 00s, in terms of a certain look and sensibility.



The saddest tale I heard recently was of the demise (or is it just cryogenically frozen?) of Art World magazine. Now, I go back decades with the editor of Art World, and remember when she was a Royal College of Art graduate working in the 1980s at Smash Hits, and dreaming of editing a title called Art Hits, which would bring the Smash Hits sensibility (accessible yet cunning culture writing) to art world subjects. This dream was eventually realised thanks to links with another Smash Hits colleague who went to Australia and became a multi-millionaire thanks to successful publishing ventures there. And so Art World magazine was born two years ago, and could afford to give away 250,000 copies at the time of the 2007 Frieze art fair -- at the peak, in other words, of the money-art bubble.

The Guardian has some good art critics, but Jonathan Jones isn't one of them, so when he ran a piece about Art World's closure last month it was completely inaccurate, both factually and contextually. Art World is on hiatus simply because the Australian millionaire's wife has frozen his assets during an acrimonious divorce. It's not because the mag was struggling in terms of subscriptions, or because the art-money-celebrity bubble burst and the mag was all about glitz. It wasn't; other art mags fit that bill much better. And other mags -- I'm thinking of Modern Painters, which clings to life by the merest of threads -- were floundering editorially while Art World had a clear, strong identity.

Basically, Art World told you about artists, showed you their work, and talked to them, as if making art mattered. There was no fluff, no theory or curatorial cant. Just the chance to read about people making visual art. "This is Art World's straightforward aim," said Ben Luke in response to Jones' article, "to talk to artists in depth, explore their work in an entirely un-star-struck way, and to present it meticulously and beautifully. The idea that we might be debasing art by doing so is bizarre."

Despite being so close to the founders of Art World, I somehow never wrote a feature for them. We discussed three, but they were all ill-starred. In the first, I was going to interview a female Japanese artist managed by a well-known stable. I entered negotiations with an American press person-slash-gatekeeper, who so annoyed me with his persistent micro-managing questions about what I was going to ask in the interview, how much Art World would pay for the right to reproduce images of the artist's work, and, again, what I planned to say, that I abandoned the whole thing. Then I proposed an interview with a British artist doing a residency in Gaza, only to discover that the artist didn't want a feature headlined "Artist X in Gaza", presumably for fear of alienating his Jewish gallerist if I said anything too political in the piece. (It later turned out that the artist himself was Jewish too.) The third ill-fated Art World feature was going to be an "in the studio" feature about an artist known for meticulous cardboard reconstructions, until it emerged that the artist in question didn't want any photos taken in his studio, which rather defeated the purpose of the whole piece. Unless, of course, we'd done the whole thing as a cut-out-and-keep, fold-along-the-dotted-line, do-it-yourself 3D construction kit of his studio.

Anyway, I must get back to work. I'm writing a piece -- I kid you not -- about a 100-year-old femininst-communist furniture designer for a Viennese art magazine. Both she and the mag are hale, hearty and as healthy as can be expected in the circumstances.

28CommentReplyFlag


(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)

"Then I proposed an interview with a British artist doing a residency in Gaza, only to discover that the artist didn't want a feature headlined "Artist X in Gaza", presumably for fear of alienating his Jewish gallerist if I said anything too political in the piece. (It later turned out that the artist himself was Jewish too.)"

I think you may have cut this long story too short. It doesn't sound very nice, somehow.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)

I have traced the not-niceness (which I think you're right about) to its source and can report that it originates in the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would necessarily have stood like a braying elephant at the centre of that particular room, crushing the art underfoot.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Arab-Israeli Cryptography

You were sensible in the first place. Of course the artist in Gaza is concerned about his Jewish gallerist's sensitivities back home; if the artist himself is Jewish, he is less than apeshit about watching his residency transmogrify into a clunky Abrahamic statement, and it is unlikely that he wishes to wear a JEW sign about the neck. These images, successfully invoked by your first iteration, only became distended and blurred by the intestinal parasites and not-nice neuroses of the braying Anon.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)

If The Wire put all its content free on the Internet, would you still buy it? If the LRB put nothing on the Internet, would you consider subscribing to it?


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 11:30 am (UTC)
Joanathan Jones

I noted this week that Jonathan Jones daughter is called Primavera, dont really need to say anymore.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)

If The Wire put all its content free on the Internet, would you still buy it?

Certainly not. I have a digital subscription (which I was given in lieu of payment for a piece I did for them) and I find that when the paper mag arrives I can hardly be bothered to open the packet, because I've read it all online already. Their online version is particularly well done, because it's exactly the same layout as the mag.

If the LRB put nothing on the Internet, would you consider subscribing to it?

I think I would buy it from time to time, rather than read every single issue, as I currently do. Remember, though, that I live outside the UK and don't see papers like the LRB very often in physical form.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 11:34 am (UTC)

hello momus !

A while back you gave us a stellar insight about a sustainable italian arquitect who let natural sea minerals build, over time, around a coral urbanism.
Can you remember his name for me ,please ?
I've googled all possible combinations of "imomus spiral sustainable arquitecture", "imomus italian arquitect", "click opera sustainable coral italian", and nothing ....
I'm doing an investigation on it and I wonder if his buildings have gotten and more ... built (italic).

Thanx !
Alex P.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)

*gotten any more...built"

Alex P.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 11:57 am (UTC)

He's not Italian, but you may be thinking of Fujimori, who does propose cities made of coral. My piece on him is here.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)

um um , not the one.
I'm 70% certain he is italian. He sets out the structure in steal in a spiral form and lets minerals and calcium dry out and cristalize to form buildings.


EDIT: ah nevermind! He's pointed out in one of Lord Whimsy's comments in that very piece! He's German: Wolf Hilbertz .

Thank you very much!
Alex P.

http://www.wolfhilbertz.com/workshop.html
very little info though on his ongoing projects. Might have to book a trip over. n_n


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)

Glad you solved the mystery!


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)

The obvious criticism here is that you only read magazines that have recently run articles by you or about you. You no longer read Vice because they no longer run your stuff or give your albums 10 out of 10 scores.


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33mhz
33mhz
The Queen of Overdub Kisses
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC)

I just realized that I have the exact same criteria for choosing magazines. I don't currently read any, and the last time any magazine mentioned me was... never.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)

The obvious criticism here is that you only read magazines that have recently run articles by you or about you.

Ha ha ha, there is something in that. It's partly because I'm too poor to afford any mags except freebies I get because of writing for mags, or featuring in them. And it's partly because the kind of mags I read are the kind of mags that will want to write about me anyway. But it's also partly, as you imply, pure narcissism, no doubt!


ReplyThread Parent
pulled-up.blogspot.com
pulled-up.blogspot.com
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 01:06 pm (UTC)

Springerin? My friend Monika used to write for them which she still lived in Vienna.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)

Springerin? No, Spike!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)

David Woodard on the first novel of the Scottish artist Momus

Do you also only write for magazines that write about you?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)

Well, obviously when you draw close to a magazine the relationship cuts -- or caresses -- both ways. In a similar way, I write for Playground in Madrid, and when I play a concert in Madrid they do a feature on it beforehand. I don't take these things for granted, but it's really nice to have the companies you work with be supportive in that way. It hasn't always been the case.


ReplyThread Parent
girfan
girfan
GIRfan
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)

I still read print magazines, though my selection is varied: SFX, Pro Cycling, The Chap, Cycling Weekly, Martha Stewart Living, Radio Times, Interzone, and sometimes read Wired, sci-fi related and various home/cooking/antiques magazines.


I never read celebrity-driven magazines and rarely pick up fashion titles (unlike a lot of women).


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constructionism
constructionism
constructionism
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)

The internet has made people more aesthetically sensitive, exposing us to millions more images. A magazine should offer an experience that a website cannot. I cannot believe how many publications have not learned this.

When the economy picks up, people may look to magazines again because you don't have to search for material. The web community needs to think more about online / offline relationships - a magazine making you want to visit a site and a site making you want to buy print material.

As for me, nothing compares to curling up in bed or sitting on a train with a a tasty magazine in my hand. I have noticed that the art magazines are more responsive to my desires. I am wondering what will happen to fashion / music and other consumer-oriented magazines, because people are becoming more choosy and less inclined to have the market tell them what to wear or listen to. The presentation is behind the times. They are going to have to embrace innovation and become more "catholic" to survive.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XZPs6ucX4E

did you make the updated backing track for this classic tune Momus? Or is that a remix? Please post mp3 is possible.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)

I don't usually do this, but if you promise to be creative and do something interesting with it, okay, here it is!

A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24) INSTRUMENTAL (5.1 MB stereo mp3)

Lyrics for the song are here.



Edited at 2009-10-30 07:39 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 1st, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)

Oh good lord, that's fantastic.


ReplyThread Parent
skazat
skazat
Alex à Paris
Mon, Nov. 16th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)

Good lord it was!

That's my video ;)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
tray boojwa

how is any of this helping to stop the wars and famines worldwide????


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)

JJ lacks the ambivalence to be a leading fauna, though he could be on DH's payroll (especially with this not-using-quotes business), and both, along with Bono, share the same cranio-body-type.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
Dead Wire

When you mentioned the Wire under this headline, my heart skipped a beat. The Wire dying?! Joy!! But, disgrace, it seems not to be the case. Oh noble trees, why sacrifice for such rubbish?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 4th, 2009 11:57 am (UTC)
100-year-old femininst-communist furniture designer

Jeanette Laverriere?

Sam


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