For the past 33 years, Parkett, the world’s most singular arts journal, has been produced in a neighborhood of Zurich that has transitioned from working-class to junkie shooting range to red-light district to quietly trendy. Modest in circulation but massive in influence, the biannual, bilingual English-German publication has fused its commentary with commissioned art, offering subscribers limited-edition works from Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, Damien Hirst, and Barbara Kruger, among others. In 2001, those pieces were the subject of an exhibition at MoMA.
“It’s much more than a magazine,” says Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the prominent curator, art historian, and director of London’s Serpentine Galleries. “It’s a very important magazine, foremost, but it’s many more things: an exhibition space, an archive…a cultural project.”
Late last year, however, there were rumors that Parkett might fold. Not exactly breaking news in this era of all-free, all-online, all-the-time. But though the journal always had a satellite office, and vital presence, in New York, it was founded and headquartered in Zurich, where, the legend goes, gold is buried under the Bahnhofstrasse, the grand shopping boulevard. Surely a deep-pocketed investor would save the day.
Then in February it was confirmed: Issue number 100/101, set to come out this fall, would be the last. How would one of Parkett’s exacting translators finesse “say it ain’t so” into German?
During a recent visit to the Zurich office — the same one Parkett has worked out of since 1984 — there wasn’t a sense of doom, just of Swiss practicality. There was work still to be done, after all. Surrounded by thousands of artist monographs and catalogs, a poster for a Laurie Anderson gig, and invites to a 2000 Geneva show by Kara Walker, the small staff was putting the finishing touches on that last book, a double issue expected…