Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Parachute, one of Canada's oldest arts journals, suspends publication

Parachute, one of Canada's most long-lived magazines about contemporary art, and one distinguished by being published in both English and French, has suspended publication. Founded in 1974, the magazine made its decision because funding levels no longer allowed it to maintain the quality it wanted with the stability it needed. (At right is the first issue of the magazine.)

In a release today, the magazine's board said:
Despite its determination and efforts to maintain the journal’s presence on the contemporary art scene and to continue operations, Parachute’s board of directors was obliged to take this last-resort decision after examining all the economic and social factors which would have enabled the journal to extract itself from the impasse facing it.
Although the journal had recently succeeded in increasing its sales by more than 200% whilecutting expenses and trimming budgets, fundraising has fallen short of need and there has been a steady erosion of government support.
Despite Parachute’s exceptional longevity in a highly competitive milieu — a longevity owing to the enthusiasm of its contributors and readers and to the unflagging determination of its director — its suspension of activities at this time highlights the precariousness of cultural organizations in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
In a letter to the journal’s readers that will appear in the final issue, PARACHUTE 125 in January 2007, art director, curator and magazine director Chantal Pontbriand (below, right), who founded and has run the magazine for more than 30 years, reluctantly writes:
When the bell tolls, the adventure should come to a stop, at least in the way it has been led until now. The economic structure needed to pursue this passionate venture linking actors from around the world is gravely lacking at this point. The situation was never comfortable, but the continuing withdrawal of government funding for innovation in the arts and the need to cultivate ever-more private funding in a country where sponsorship of contemporary art is underdeveloped and where few private art galleries in the field exist, does not help our effort to raise funds and be self-sustaining. After huge efforts to cut costs and increase fundraising in the private sector in the hope of counteracting a too-fragile economic situation, our endeavour must come to a halt while we reconsider the situation and find other ways of doing what we do. Personally, I do not wish to stop myself, being convinced of the need for the magazine.”
From its very first issue, Parachute’s mission has been to investigate new transdisciplinary and multimedia artistic practices and explore new directions in art. Numerous exhibitions were mounted, including curating the Canadian pavilion at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990 and multidisciplinary international festivals. Eleven symposia and several discussion laboratories were held in Montreal and elsewhere under the title PARAZONES.

With a print run of 4,000 – 5,000 copies, and a Canadian subscription price of $57 for four issues, Parachute circulates in more than forty countries.

In 2004, La Lettre volée in Brussels published Essais choisis 1975-2000, a collection of some of the most important articles appearing in the journal since its founding. An English anthology will be co-published by Pennsylvania State University Press and Tate Publishing and a Spanish edition is being prepared by CENDEAC in Spain.

Parachute has been chosen by the Documenta 12 Magazine Project as one of the eighty journals around the world which works to link artistic practices, theoretical discourse and the public. These journals are collaborating on the creation of a web site on the theoretical and artistic issues being raised by the next edition of Documenta in Kassel in the summer of 2007.

The final issue is devoted to Havana and will be on sale in January 2007.

UPDATE: Not everybody is cut up about the suspension. The owner of Zeke's, a contemporary art gallery in Montreal, had this to say in his blog about the report of Parachute's demise.
If Parachute is closing because of lack of government funding, how does it mean that there is no money in Montreal for contemporary art? It might mean that certain people are not willing to pay a CPM of more than $100 for an academic journal that is read by 1,200 people. If I remember correctly, the Musee d'art contemporain got more than 62,000 people to see their Brian Jungen exhibit, and more than 50,000 for Anselm Kiefer, and this is after they raised their prices by 33%. If you do good work, people will pay for it. Do not so good work, and you can't give it away for free.

Again, I am very sad that Parachute is closing, but to use the occasion to further some mistruths about contemporary art in Montreal is just plain bad reporting.


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