NOTHING BEATS LEAFING through the pages of a visually inspiring print publication, except perhaps that initial moment of spotting a compelling magazine cover on the newsstand or newly delivered to your mailbox. Over the past year, art magazines have selected winning cover images paying tribute to painter Kerry James Marshall, marking the historic opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, addressing the fractious political season, and more. The following 2016 magazine and journal covers were among the best and most notable of the year.

Cover Art: TRENTON DOYLE HANCOCK, “Self portrait with Tongue,” 2010 (acrylic on paper).

Trenton Doyle Hancock | Juxtapoz, January 2016

Juxtapoz celebrated “Skin and Bones: 20 Years of Drawing,” Trenton Doyle Hancock’s survey exhibition by featuring the artist’s work on the cover of its first issue of the year. Inspired by a lifelong love of comics and graphic novels, the Houston-based artist’s fantastical images form semi-autobiographical narratives.


Cover subject: Among many other pursuits over the past year, British filmmaker JOHN AKOMFRAH presented new and recent works at Lisson Gallery in New York.

John Akomfrah | Art Review, January/February 2016

Art Review opened the new year with a look at “the artists who are setting new agendas in relation to the role and social relevance of art, selected by fellow artists, critics and curators.” A striking portrait of British filmmaker John Akomfrah covered the annual guide of “Future Greats.”


Cover Image: APPAU JUNIOR BOAKYE-YIADOM, “Tum Tum Telephone,” 2012 (video still). | Courtesy of the artist

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom | Contemporary&, February 2016

Published twice a year, this print complement to the online site Contemporary& features conversations with artists ruby onyinyechi amanze, Martine Syms, and Senga Nengudi, among others, and curators including Nomusa Makhubu, Nkule Mabaso, and Amy Watson. The Interview Issue coincided with the Armory Show in New York during which the editors curated “Focus: African Perspectives” section of the fair.


The cover by KADIR NELSON references images from two well-known paintings: “Into Bondage” (1936) by Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson’s circa 1939-40 “Cafe.”

Kadir Nelson | The New Yorker, Feb. 22. 2016

The Feb. 22 cover of The New Yorker pays tribute to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with references to artists Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson. The ensemble image by Los Angeles-based illustrator Kadir Nelson also features Harlem’s towering figures of the arts and letters, jazz and politics, including Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday.


Cover Image: DAVID HAMMONS has presented fur coats burned and sullied with paint draped on dress forms in Upper East Side gallery exhibitions.

David Hammons | Flash Art, May 2016

For two years, beginning in 2015 through 2017, the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco has committed itself to studying and asking questions about the work of artist David Hammons. Many of the research group’s queries remain unanswered and are raised in “David Hammons?” an essay in the May 2016 issue of Flash Art which features the elusive artist’s work on the cover.


Cover Image: “Cotton Mouth” by SHELDON SCOTT. The artist “takes performances of black burden and respectability to the breaking point for his body, and his audience.”

Sheldon Scott | Transition, Issue 120, 2016

Published by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, the “You Are Next” issue of Transition magazine considered “the artist’s power to capture, convey, and make visible the particularities of marginalized or misrepresented identity.” The work of South Carolina-born, Washington, D.C.-based psychotherapist turned multidisciplinary artist Sheldon Scott appears on the cover.


aperture no 223 summer 2016
The “Art & Justice” issue of Aperture magazine was published with two covers: From left, AWOL ERIZKU, “Untitled (Forces of Nature #1),” 2014; and RICHARD AVEDON, “Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader, with his father, Martin Luther King, Baptist minister, and his son, Martin Luther King III, Atlanta, Georgia, March 22, 1963.”

“Art & Justice” | Aperture, Summer 2016

Curator and scholar Sarah Lewis guest-edited a special summer edition of Aperture magazine. “Art & Justice” explores the African American experience through photography and featured two different covers. Inside remarkable images by important artists and photographers and insightful writings by renowned historians, scholars, and curators abound.


From left, Artists ERIC GOTTESMAN and HANK WILLIS THOMAS, founders of For Freedoms super PAC. | Portrait by Landon Nordeman

Hank Willis Thomas & Eric Gottesman | Cultured, Summer 2016

Weighing in on the contentious 2016 presidential election season, the summer edition of Cultured magazine explored “The Art of Politics” with a profile of Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, the founders of For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC and exhibition vehicle with contributions by dozens of artists.


Cover Art: NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “What,” 2015 (unique ultrachrome pigmented print, acrylic, spray paint on canvas).

Nina Chanel Abney | Juxtapoz, July 2016

The July issue of Juxtapoz featured Nina Chanel Abney’s work on the cover along with a profile of the inspired painter inside. The magazine said her “vibrant images of social unrest, mixed with pop-culture iconography and slang have made her one of the most exciting talents to emerge in US in the 21st Century.”


Cover Art: KADIR NELSON “A Day at the Beach,” 2016.

Kadir Nelson | The New Yorker, Summer 2016

The New Yorker featured on its cover Kadir Nelson’s take on “A Day at the Beach,” a powerful, very American image of a black father at the sun-drenched shore with his children. The illustration by the Los Angeles-based artist appears on the magazine’s summer double issue (July 11 and July 18, 2016).


British artist Chris Ofili was commissioned to create a cover for the 25th anniversary edition of Frieze.

Chris Ofili | Frieze Magazine, September 2016

To mark its 25th anniversary, Frieze magazine commissioned three different covers for its September issue, which also included a review of the 25 most significant works of art produced over the past quarter century. Chris Ofili was the only cover artist whose work was also selected among the most important and relevant during the London-based publication’s tenure.


From left: JULIE MEHRETU cover image by Landon Nordeman; RASHID JOHNSON’s cover portrait was photographed by artists Hank Willis Thomas.

Julie Mehretu/Rashid Johnson | Cultured, September 2016

Two of the most anticipated fall exhibitions in New York presented new work by Julie Mehretu (“Hoodnyx, Voodoo, and Stelae” at Marian Goodman gallery), and Rashid Johnson (“Fly Away” at Hauser & Wirth gallery). For its September issue, Cultured magazine produced two different covers featuring the artists and with profiles of each inside: “Rashid Johnson: An Anxious Man” and “Insisting on Opacity: Julie Mehretu.”


Clockwise, from top left: Cover images by LORNA SIMPSON, xST/SHAWN THEODORE, AMY SHERALD, and DELPHINE DIALLO (whose image includes makeup by Laolu Senbenjo).

Multiple Artists | Smithsonian, September 2016

The September issue of Smithsonian magazine was dedicated to the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Headlined “Black in America,” the magazine describes the opening as a “defining moment,” and features four different covers by various artists, including Lorna Simpson and Amy Sherald, who both have works on view in the visual art galleries of the museum.


The cover art, AMY SHERALD, “Grand Dame Queenie,” 2013 (oil on canvas), is in the collection of the National Museum African American History and Culture and on view in its visual art galleries.

Amy Sherald | Archives of American Art, Fall 2016

The fall edition of the Archives of American Art Journal was devoted to African American art in celebration of the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Featuring the work of Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald on the cover, the issue explores the institution’s art collections, and research and new acquisitions related to African American art at the archives.


Cover Art: KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “Untitled (Pink Towel),” 2014 (acrylic on PVC panel).

Kerry James Marshall | Flash Art, September-October 2016

On the occasion of “Mastry,” Kerry James Marshall’s 35-year survey, Flash Art featured the celebrated painter’s work on its September-October cover. Based in Milan with offices in New York, the magazine published a conversation between Marshall and Helen Molesworth, chief curator at MoCA Los Angeles, where the exhibition opens March 2017, after debuting at MCA Chicago and traveling to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Breuer in New York.


Kerry James Marshall’s “The Greats” cover of “T” magazine is a self portrait painted by the artist.

Kerry James Marshall | New York Times ‘T,’ Oct. 25, 2016

This fall, the New York Times “T” style magazine selected “The Greats,” seven people including painter Kerry James Marshall who are redefining our culture. Published with seven different covers, each featuring one of the greats, Marshall’s cover accompanied a lengthy profile—“Kerry James Marshall is Shifting the Color of Art History.”


Cover Art: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, “Photo Bloke,” 2016 (oil and acrylic on linen). | Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. © Barkley L.Hendricks

Barkley L. Hendricks | NKA Journal, November 2016

Edited by Cheryl Finley and Deborah Willis, this special issue “Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West,” was published to complement the first Black Portraiture[s] conference in Paris. Contributions include “Portraits in Black: Styling, Space, and Self in the Work of Barkley L. Hendricks and Elizabeth Colomba,” an essay by Anna Arabindan-Kesson considering the work of cover artist.


Cover Art: DREAD SCOTT, “Imagine a World Without America,” 2007 (silkscreen on canvas).

Dread Scott | Artforum, November 2016

Coinciding with the 2016 presidential election, the November issue of Artforum was a special “Artists on Politics” edition that featured contributions by Dread Scott and Simone Leigh, among other artists, described as calls to action “that address our fraught political season.”


The interior design of the Obama’s White House home is enhanced by art, works by Joseph Albers (cover image), Sam Francis, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mangold, Robert Rauschenberg, Susan Rothenberg, Sam Scully, and Alma Thomas.

Multiple Artists | Architectural Digest, December 2016

For its Art Issue, published in the final weeks of the Obama Administration, Architectural Digest offers a White House tour via gorgeous photographs of the stylish private quarters of President Obama and his family, where their living spaces are filled with art. Glenn Ligon’s “Black Like Me #2” (1992) hangs in the Family Sitting Room, and “Sky Light” (1973), a blue canvas by Alma Thomas, graces the West Hall. CT


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