by Kitty Drake in September 2020
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Art & design

Limbo is a profit-share: after covering its print-costs, all the money made in sales of the magazine is split evenly between staff and contributors. What this means in practice is no flat-fees: everyone who contributes is a stakeholder. Publisher Nick Chapin, who has previously worked at Vice and Frieze magazine, had the idea for the project in lockdown, when all his paid employment went on “indefinite pause”. “There were a lot of projects to help but they were almost all charity fundraisers,” Chapin explains. “Charity is great, but you want to get people some basic paying work again.” He wanted to create an opportunity for out of work artists and writers to “generate a fair pay cheque, rather than some big, headline grabbing donation.”

What you immediately notice about this magazine is its star power. Bigger name contributors were asked whether they’d like to opt in or opt out of the profit-share, and so many donated their work in order to give less established artists a bigger cut. Contributions are funny and immediate: Vivienne Westwood has sketched a deck of political playing cards (her ‘three of clubs’ features a doodle of three dicks, meant to represent politicians); Miranda July talks readers through her favourite screenshots; and Tim Key has written poetry:

Two lovers, exiled from one another.
They started doing the same things at all times.
He would post her a bagel for breakfast and they
would eat “together”.
For lunch they would cook linguini, slinging it into the pan at 12.45 on the dot.
They’d run at five and stop in front of their respective
oak trees and in the evening they’d start their movie
at the exact same time and watch it with the same
red wine in matching glasses and it was beautiful.
At night they screwed their respective flatmates and
all four had a WhatsApp group and it was an absolute

Limbo’s creative director is David Lane (of the Gourmand) so this magazine looks beautiful — it’s larger than your average publication, collage-heavy and it has a writerly, ornate font. Much of what works best about Limbo riffs on traditional magazine formats. One spread ‘Hot or Not: Life Guidance’ dissects the best things to get into in lockdown, from Golden Girls to masturbation. Fran Leibowitz also features: “The definitive New York author wrote her last book in 1994 and has since been on a heroic mission to defend the august act of being unproductive.” There’s also a horoscopes page, written beautifully (and cattily) by Raven Smith.

Originally intended to be a one-off publication, the response has been so good Chapin can see a future: “You know how magazines are, as you make them you start to get a feeling for how they could live on, what sort of sections they could have and things like that”. Let’s hope we don’t have to live through another lockdown before we see issue 2.

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