Since 1980, the cover of W magazine has paid tribute to hundreds of artists, writers, photographers, and musicians.
Long before everyone was on Instagram, Tumblr, or Snapchat, there was the W magazine cover — a time capsule of the people and places that marked a new cultural moment, a setting for changes in cultural taste and behavior. The first cover that captured the attention of the New York City art community happened not in 1980, but in 1956, when Alexander Calder took a stand against racism by not wearing a jacket; he was rebelling against the “stocky, sickly American man,” as he called him.
One of the most iconic W covers ever is that of the late artist Yoko Ono, who — along with John Lennon — is part of a group of friends known as the “Vogue family” that the magazine features on its covers. “Yoko Ono will not be photographed in a red or black wig,” the cover reads. “Yoko Ono will not wear a face mask. She will not go out and steal a bag of potato chips or wear a hoodie. Yoko Ono is naked. She is defying stereotypes and defying conventions of beauty. Yoko Ono is a female Statue of Liberty. She will become naked again.”
But that image of defiance, often bemoaned as a harbinger of feminism, also stems from an aesthetic aversion to masks, a fashion choice even Ono herself once described as “Vogue’s style of being sexy.”
For instance, Ingrid De Landrut is a pioneer of the “Naked Anti-Face Cover.” She chose to go au natural on her W cover in 1999. She later wrote in The New York Times that her main motivation for removing her makeup was, in part, a protest against the airbrushed covers she often saw in those days. “The new cover policy at W magazine, on the other hand, is a reaction to the inherent ‘trademark’ of clean-faced young women,” she said.
De Landrut also sparked the New York Times trend column this year, though her reasons for working in the nude were different: “It’s simple,” she said. “I hated wearing a mask.”
Join the conversation, and let us know what you think. What is your ideal cover for W?