Monday, April 20, 2009

Tar Magazine

A Magazine With See-Through Appeal


THE impact of the recession on fashion magazines has been severe, with some titles closing and others cutting back on staff and pages — or, in the case of Tar, a new indie arts biannual, half of Kate Moss’s face.

The magazine, which will release its second issue on April 15, will undoubtedly draw attention for a cover image created by the artist Damien Hirst. It shows Ms. Moss with her skin pulled back to expose the muscle tissue along one side of her face.

It is not the idealized cover image you might expect would help to sell a magazine, though the distortion is really not that different from the extreme retouching that routinely goes on at mainstream publications to make celebrities look “better,” only to make them look like aliens. (How many people recognized Reese Witherspoon on the cover of the April issue of Elle?)

“I think the cover really ties in both the conscious and subconscious levels of the beauty myth, tearing away the layers and looking at what’s below,” said Evanly Schindler, the editor of Tar. Mr. Schindler, who was a founder of BlackBook, started Tar (an anagram of art) to explore the intersection of art and fashion from a perspective that is both intellectually pointed and socially conscious but still stylishly produced.

The magazine’s first issue was a considerable success, selling about 54 percent of its 90,000 copies. Advertisements for luxury brands like Barneys New York, Prada and Giorgio Armani jockeyed for position with Tar’s provocative content — a feat since Tar has a lot of more words than clothes. That issue included a fashion feature of tribal costumes, loads of Ryan McGinley nudes and a smart discussion on politics and media perception between Christiane Amanpour of CNN and the documentarian Jehane Noujaim.

In his office on Hudson Street, Mr. Schindler said the reaction to Tar had been encouraging but that producing a second issue was challenging, as advertisers, reacting to the economy, became scarce. He dropped some ad rates ($20,000 a page) by as much as half but was still able to maintain the lavish quality thanks to a partnership with Siz, an Italian company that specializes in museum art books.

Yves Saint Laurent was so attracted to the concept — the theme of the second issue is transparency, illustrated literally with the cover image — that the company requested space adjacent to an article about the embarrassment of being perversely rich.

What makes Tar appealing is that it rejects the traditionally reverential approach to fashion, hiring fashion photographers to take portraits of serious subjects and artists to look at clothes. For example, Elle Muliarchyk photographed accessories by sneaking into a church, placing a Van Cleef & Arpels brooch on a statue of the Mother and Child. Terry Richardson, known for his fashion work, created portraits of New York psychiatrists in their offices.

“It’s not a fashion magazine,” Mr. Schindler said. “The idea was to make it a specialized product, like an art book of what’s happening in this moment. It’s a time capsule.”

via: nytimes.

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