Conde Nast plans high-end art title

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Conde Nast Publications' development unit is at work on a magazine for art lovers.

The project is still unnamed, but insiders describe its focus as art and art in the home, and aimed at an upper-crust demographic. The title, should it end up launching, may reach at an even more rarefied realm than the one inhabited by key luxe-life Conde Nast titles like Architectural Digest and House & Garden.

One insider said the project was not an offshoot of an existing title. House & Garden, though, has published at least one theme issue around the concept of living with art in the past, and it's expected to begin an art-related column later this year.

It's not certain if the title would come under Conde Nast or be a part of another Advance Publications unit, such as Fairchild Publications. Conde Nast's Editorial Director James Truman, who is overseeing the project, told Advertising Age previously that the company's publishing model calls for mass-circulation titles, which he defined as magazines with circulation in excess of 650,000. This title is not expected to approach that level of mass appeal, said people who've been briefed on it.

no comment

A Conde Nast spokeswoman would not comment beyond confirming the existence of unspecified projects in development at the company.

After a period of relative quiet, developmental efforts at Conde Nast kicked into higher gear last year. After two years of testing, Teen Vogue was launched early this year.

In March, Conde Nast's President-CEO Steven T. Florio surprised attendees at a Magazine Publishers of America breakfast when he said the company would announce a launch shortly. Four days later, the company announced the '04 launch-without test issues-of a then-untitled male-aimed version of its shopping title Lucky. That project is now known as Cargo, and is being overseen by former New York Publisher Alan Katz and Editor in Chief Ariel Foxman, a former senior editor at Time Inc.'s In Style.

No timetable seems set for a test or launch of the art-themed project, said insiders. But it's expected to begin staffing up late this summer, although some discreet overtures have already been made.

The high-end demographic the magazine would chase remains a coveted one, and the ad-page results for luxury-heavy magazine companies like Conde Nast and American Express Publishing Corp. are showing signs of life after a long period of decline. Conde Nast's ad pages rose 7.9% for the first half of '03 and American Express' increased 12.1%.

Mixed results

Results at Conde Nast's shelter titles, though, are more mixed. Through June, Architectural Digest's ad pages were up 7.6%, while those at House & Garden fell 5.7%.

The closest magazine to the proposed art-themed title last published by a major player was Hearst Magazines' Connoisseur, which was shuttered in 1991.

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