“The cover is a portal to the issue. Ideally, all aspects of what’s happening in an issue are somehow compressed into this one image.”
W ith its distinctive square format and bold imagery, the Artforum cover has made a powerful statement about contemporary art since the premier issue came out in June 1962. The first cover featured a mysterious image – a photograph of the shadow cast by a Jean Tinguely sculpture – piquing the curiosity of readers introduced to this new magazine dedicated to a “free exchange of critical opinion.” As the readership and influence of the publication grew, its covers came to signal the editors’ judgment about the artists or trends that mattered most, often introducing new modes of artmaking to a wider public. When seen together, the covers serve as a timeline of contemporary art, from Abstract Expressionism through Pop art, Minimalism and Post-Minimalism, Land and Performance art, Neo-Expressionism and other movements, with forays into art that engaged with fashion, political activism and the art market itself.
We asked the current editors to select one cover from each year of Artforum’s publication, adding a retrospective critical view on choices that were made in real time.