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LIMBO magazine
Spreads from LIMBO magazine

This new mag proposes a new publishing model so artists can pay their bills

Founded during lockdown, LIMBO features contributions from Vivienne Westwood, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tom Sachs, and Tyler Mitchell

A new magazine called LIMBO, which describes itself as “a cultural time capsule born under lockdown”, launches today, featuring contributions from almost one hundred artists, including Vivienne WestwoodWolfgang TillmansMiranda JulyTom SachsAndrea ArnoldTyler MitchellCollier Schorr.

Describing itself as a not-for-profit title which has been created to support artists and creatives through a new publishing model – a profit share, whereby advertising revenue goes back to its staff and those featured.

“The whole thing works on an honesty system,” says publisher Nick Chapin, breaking down the “egalitarian” model, whereby everyone involved in the mag is offered an equal cut. “We asked people to choose whether they wanted to get paid or not, and almost half the contributors said ‘I’m ok, I’d rather it went to others’.”

Alongside Chapin, LIMBO was edited by Francesca Gavin and creative directed by David Lane, having been pieced together from their bedrooms during the past few months of lockdown. With its design borrowed from “classic counterculture mags”, LIMBO is described by Chapin as having “the humour and irreverence of Smash Hits and early issues of The Face, mixed with the thoughtfulness of The New Yorker, and a dose of Sunday supplement pastiche.”

Below, Chapin and Gavin tell us more about how LIMBO came to life in the midst of a global lockdown.

What was the moment that tipped LIMBO into existence?

Nick Chapin: When all my work disappeared I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I started speaking to friends and found so many people in the same boat. There were a lot of charity arts projects going around, which was great, but they were all asking artists to work for free. I thought we needed to find a way to flip that on its head.

Francesca Gavin: Nick approached me around March 25, very early during lockdown. I immediately saw that the idea of a publication that supported people out of work and losing their cultural outlets had huge appeal. Freelancers were being dropped by papers and magazines. No shoots were happening. Exhibitions were closed. It was clear that there were a lot of incredible, inventive talents who were losing income and opportunity. It felt exciting to be providing a platform to show their work.

Nick Chapin: We got on Zoom and did a massive brain dump – hundreds of names we’d like to get into the magazine. It was a fantasy but we thought, ‘hey, it can’t hurt to ask.’ I remember on the first day Miranda July, Peaches, and Julie Verhoeven all said yes and I thought ... that’s already a great magazine. This might really happen.

LIMBO is described as ‘the ultimate time capsule of the 2020 crisis’ – can you expand on the overarching themes and ideas explored in the work throughout LIMBO?

Nick Chapin: It definitely started with a desire to peek inside the minds and bedrooms of interesting people all around the world. But it quickly became about much more than lockdown. Like a creative census. There’s anxiety and anger, but also humour, invention, and manifestos for change.

Francesca Gavin: The publication is also an ode to the magazine itself. Our whole team emerged from independent publishing backgrounds. From the beginning, Dave Lane was referencing the design of classic counterculture mags. We wanted the content to have the humour and irreverence of Smash Hits and early issues of The Face, mixed with the thoughtfulness of The New Yorker, and a dose of Sunday supplement pastiche.

Nick Chapin: It’s important to say that the editorial was almost entirely completed before George Floyd’s death and the BLM uprising. And yet you see that anger and energy foreshadowed in pieces by Paul Maheke, Georgina Johnson, and others.

Why did you choose the artists we see included?

Nick Chapin: People we love, people we knew needed work, people we thought must be up to something weird and wonderful behind closed doors. People with a message.

Francesca Gavin: So many interesting DIY projects were bubbling up. We really wanted to talk to individuals we admire who are pushing creativity in their fields, like Tyler Mitchell. We started reaching out, asking how artists had been navigating the moment, asking for their view on the way forward. What was incredible is how many agreed to get on board. The openness in that moment and the desire to support the creative community was everywhere. 

Nick Chapin: There were artists we knew were working on something that would fit. And certain briefs we thought would be amazing – like dance lessons from Lily McMenamy or lockdown horoscopes from Raven Smith. But for the most part we offered a blank page and the process was sort of self selection.

How have you worked out who are the contributors most in need?

Nick Chapin: The financial model we’ve built is totally egalitarian. Everyone taking part in the profit share gets an equal cut. The whole thing works on an honesty system. We asked people to choose whether they wanted to get paid or not, and almost half the contributors said ‘I’m ok, I’d rather it went to others’, which was amazing.

Francesca Gavin: It was clear that emerging artists and writers in particular needed the help. But the process felt very natural.

LIMBO introduces a community-driven model, which distributes its profits back to its artists. Do you see this as a model which could be adopted industry-wide? 

Francesca Gavin: This was Nick’s genius ideas. It feels like a cultural version of a co-op somehow. A way to support the community we are part of and respect. I think transparency and honesty is imperative at this moment in time. 

Nick Chapin: So much artistic and creative work these days is unpaid. Editorial pays very little, if anything at all. People flood instagram with incredible stuff and don’t even get a cut of the ad money. The idea is that if you play the game you’ll eventually get paid and, somehow, get by. It’s an incredibly precarious system. And when the machine stops spinning, there’s no safety net.

What we’ve seen during the crisis is that this just isn’t sustainable. I hope more people will consider community-focused models and fair approaches to profit. But I have a feeling it will have to come from the bottom up.

Will we see a second issue?

Nick Chapin: When we started, the idea was to do a one-off – almost an art project riffing on the idea of a magazine, rather than a title that would live on. But we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback. There seems to be huge appetite for something like this. So… we’ll see.

Francesca Gavin: A second lockdown looks like it's on the horizon anyway, so...

LIMBO is available to buy here