Format and Creative Direction for Whitewall Magazine
The demise of Smock magazine left me yearning to revive the concept of a photojournalistic art industry magazine with a ‘backstage’ focus on the personalities that drive it. Then, in late 2004, I was referred to an aspiring publisher with the desire to produce a large-format contemporary art coffee-table book. We met frequently over the following months to further define the concept. I soon convinced him to go beyond the book format and publish a bimonthly art magazine with a focus on the larger environment: the artists, gallerists, curators, collectors and the behind-the-scenes lifestyles of the contemporary art scene. We recruited the perfect editor in Eve Therond (daughter of Roger Therond, the legendary former editor of Paris Match). Her talents and pedigree in both fine art and photojournalism represented a very auspicious beginning. We set up an office and got to work.
Early Masthead Explorations
Final Cover
The cover image is taken from a story we did on high-profile art-collector Aby Rosen shot at Lever House in Manhattan. We were resting between shots when I noticed a uniformed maintenance worker casually cleaning a towering bronze figurative work by Damien Hirst. I quickly asked photographer Larry Fink to get it on film. It’s a wonderful image that speaks volumes about the status of art.
Naming was the first challenge. The magazine needed a title that departed from the astringently academic or intellectually obscure convention of art journals, striking instead a chord between the vernacular appropriations of pop-art and the fashionable energy and attitude of the modern blue-chip gallery environment. The name Whitewall came to me from the iconic mid-century bathos of post-modernism, elevating the ordinary. It also represented our desire to bring our audience beyond the white walls of the sterile gallery environment. In developing the logo, I gravitated toward a bold, pop aesthetic with a subtle nod to the double-entendre of the title: custom-drawn letterforms inspired by the aggressively bold, slanted lettering found on automobile tires.
Masthead Logo
Format Grid
My intent here was to create an adaptive grid array that would provide the utility for tight, consistent pages but also the fluidity for creative freedom. The system was designed to accommodate clean feature layouts, shorter feature spreads and content-rich, multi-story pages. I added a distinctive vertical system of page furniture that links the page numbering with the section rubrics.
Page Furniture Detail
Art Direction
Larry Fink
Aby Rosen
The format was minimal; art direction would give the magazine its personality. I intended to bring in photographers who crossed the line between fine-art and editorial. For the prototype issue I needed to show a strong example of the acute sensitivity and provocative instinct that would distinguish our editorial vision. Essentially, we sought to capture personality with personality. I couldn’t have hoped for a better ‘get’ than Larry Fink, who rode down from his upstate farm to photograph real estate tycoon and blue-chip art maven Aby Rosen. The shoot captured a telephone call with Jeffrey Koons and a lunch meeting with Larry Gagosian, all unfolding upon the juxtapositional stage of a sleek Park Avenue office-slash-art gallery where business deals were brokered beneath an arsenal of original Warhols and Basquiats. The result was a surreal showcase on the rarified world of blue-chip collectors.
Cover Story
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Artist Profile
Our artist profile was a studio visit with painter Kehinde Wiley, then hard at work on a new show for Jeffrey Deitch. I sought out Bruce Weber protegé Anders Overgaard for his mixture of formal portraiture and documentary photography. We spent half a day with Kehinde in his midtown Manhattan studio as he fluctuated between moments of relaxed conversation and industrious spells of artistic authority, directing his several apprentices as they worked simultaneously on a collection of his large neo-baroque portraits.
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Selected Pages
Front-of-book pages described artistic trends, industry trends, and the art of collecting, followed by shorter profiles of artists such as Ron Arad and Margaret Evangeline. Calling upon New York editorial portrait photographers with a focus on personality, such as Jason Tanaka Blaney and Jordon Doner, we placed emphasis on signature assignment photography. The feature-well included a visual display of the current and emerging states of contemporary art as they pertained to major collectors.
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Epilogue
Despite last-minute cuts to our production budget, the prototype was a success and the magazine was funded for full publication. Unfortunately, the publisher opted to bring on a less experienced, lower paid staff to produce the circulating version. I declined to continue under the circumstances, and sadly, the magazine was almost entirely redesigned (retaining only the logo). Editor Eve Therond resigned shortly thereafter. Whitewall does continue to publish but it bears no resemblance to the prototype we created.