A new exhibition in Amsterdam highlights the power of magazine cover art. ‘The Originals’ is curated by Jaap Biemans, aka Coverjunkie. I spoke to him about the show, and asked for a list of his favourites.
Picture above: Jaap (left) with gallery owner Madé van Krimpen and the original photograph by Beni Bischof for the cover of Volkskrant magazine.
Jaap has transferred his Instagram-orientated obsession to a busy show at Gallery Madé van Krimpen. 100 iconic front covers are on display, each one carefully hung in a transparent plastic holddr (a method Jaap uses at his home office to show off his collection) . Seven original pieces of art created for the magazines are on show too, ranging from small polaroids to large photographic prints.
Jaap—whose full-time role is art director of the weekly Volksrant newspaper magazine—dug into his personal collection for the exhibition, finding it a useful exercise to see what he had. ‘It was a nice way to see what’s in there and what’s missing. Next step is focussing on new additions.’
Having made his initial selection, Jaap handed the list over to the gallery’s Madé van Krimpen to finalise what would be shown. ‘I left out four covers cause I just could not do it, I was afraid something would happen to them, I cherish them too much to lose them. One of these, (shown above) was the 1945 ‘Peace and recontruction‘ issue of British Vogue.’ Plenty of classic covers from the past century are included though—other Vogues, sixties US Esquire, Nova, Bloomberg Businessweek—the list goes on.
What can we learn from seeing the magazines and original art together? ‘Art and magazines are a great fit!’
While he receives new magazines for his feed daily via email, Jaap hunts down the vintage magazines online. ‘I’m on ebay all the time, addicted,’ he explained, ‘Too bad its not like 20 years ago when you could buy an issue of RayGun for 10 Euros. They cost 75 these days. People send me stuff once in a while—last month this nice chap from London sent me all the issues of Speak magazine. Those moments are the best!’
A simpler part of the preparation was tracking down the art pieces. ‘That was the easy part, working with galleries and artists.’ The exhibition features seven originals pieces alongside the magazine cover they appeared on. Or rather, six. ‘I wanted Gary Baseman’s cover for Beach Culture in the show. It’s from the nineties but still up there with the best—crisp, fresh and iconic. Gary searched for the original cover art but its probably somewhere in art director David Carson’s vault? So we decided to show the inside art he made for that same issue.’
‘This is the favourite cover I’ve designed, working with artist Beni Bischof. So simple, so strong. The cover, from 2019, is about receiving dick pics. We never got so many people that were angry and stopped their subscription to Volkskrant!’
Vogue with a photo from Irvin Penn.
The latest addition to my collection, iconic and strong.
Their 2021 Christmas cover, ‘Into Life’.
‘The ET cover, a bizzare addition to the show from photographer Paul Kooiker.’
‘The best cover EVER designed in the Netherlands. its about the media landscape by Silvio Berslusconi. the artdirector Piet Schreuders hopped on his bike to the newsstand, bought some Italian newspapers from that day and folded them; see the logo on top (VPRO GIDS) and on each page there’s Berlusconi, it says it all.’
The New York Times
‘The newspaper with all names of the first 100,000 Covid deaths, published in May 2020. 100,000 names and some little personal additions about these people makes such an impact when seeing and reading this.’
‘I adore this magazine and its vibe. It’s got it all. I was in art school when this came out (1990) and it was everything i did not like in graphic design but I fell in love with it. I tried to do the same but iwas just not me, and made me realise a big thing: don’t copy, keep designing to your own design DNA.’
One final question…
Many of the covers are from a long time ago. Can a front cover still be as powerful as, say, sixties US Esquire or noughties Businessweek?
That’s an interesting question—to be honest, a big YES. It’s harder now because people are used to see lots of images these days. Social media has done stuff to our brain, we can suck in lots more images than before.
But when a cover’s done well, with a context and a meaning it’s better than anything else. With all the social engagement going on, a cover is the perfect way to show what the voice of the magazine is, just like George Lois did in the sixties and Richard Turley in the early 2000’s.
‘The Originals’ continues until 17 June 2023 at Madé van Krimpen, Amsterdam.