Of all the performer’s covers, this Visionaire production, with its photograph of a slinky, shimmering mermaid Gaga with a tar-covered fish tail, has to be the most flamboyant. The magazine is two meters high and 1.5 meters wide, or 6 feet high and 4.8 feet wide — so large that it has just entered history in the Guinness Book of World Records.
A magazine? Aren’t those paper productions supposed to be going the way of the dodo, an endangered species in the era of the Internet?
Cecilia Dean, one of the three founders of Visionaire back in 1991, has reason to rejoice that the art/fashion combo is celebrating its 20th birthday in such good shape.
“Everyone keeps asking ‘Is print dead?’ It’s been the question of the moment for last five years,” Ms. Dean said. “Print is not dead. But it has to evolve. The challenge for a magazine is to create real physical experience for their audience. Visionaire makes more sense now than it did before.”
The editor and her founding colleagues, Stephen Gan and James Kaliardos, saw the magazine as an interactive experience long before the era of cyberspace. Issues on the subject of “smell” and “taste” literally offered those opportunities to the readers.
When Karl Lagerfeld, as guest editor, helped to develop the tasting issue, a glass vial of liquid re-created the warm smell of freshly baked bread from Paris. To take the concepts past striking visuals, there was a collaboration with International Flavors and Fragrances that included scent strips to accompany the images of the London artist Gary Hume
“The painting depicted life, so the taste was fertile soil about to blossom,” Ms. Dean said. “If there is too much water it tastes like a bog. Too dry and it is like the desert: sand with no fertility. Every morning my desk had taste strips and gel tabs that melt on the tongue. And the issue came out with packets like that.”
Other issues pushing the boundaries of print included a battery-operated “light” magazine, and an issue that had a tray of 10 toys. Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons was the first guest editor, in 1996, with the magazine covered in her signature checked muslin fabric.
Visionaire was as much a student start-up as Facebook. Ms. Dean, a graduate in English and French literature; Mr. Gan, a multitasker who had been creative director and visualizer of Details magazine; and Mr. Kaliardos, who had just left Parsons school of design and was fascinated by makeup and beauty, got together to found what was then a revolutionary meld of art and fashion. But for all its imaginative content, it was still physically a classic magazine.
“When we started in 1991 it is just crazy to think it was pre-Blackberry, pre-Internet, pre-Google and desktop,” Ms. Dean said. “It was a completely different world. We were offering a forum for fashion photographers and illustrators to show their personal work. They were not accepted in art galleries, didn’t have Internet, publishing their own books was expensive and the landscape was very commercial. Yet all these people had personal work tucked in a drawer.” As a model working with photographers like Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino and Ellen von Unworth, the would-be editor knew that personal work would be carried out after the photo shoot. That was then the source of creative and unpublished work.
“Artists now are so busy and paid so much money, we have to come to them with such a fun idea that it piques creative juices and they will make time for you,” Ms. Dean said.
Since the early days, photographers have been honored to collaborate on projects — not least Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who did the Gaga image. The Gaga issue, “Larger Than Life,” comes at a price. The deluxe edition is limited to 250 and costs $1,500; the smaller version, more friendly to bookstore shelves, sells at $375.
Only the support from Africa, a Brazilian advertising and media agency and its colorful owner, Nizan Guanaes, allowed it to be produced.
For those who want the joy without the bucks, the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris has just acquired a complete collection of Visionaires. Does Ms. Dean think of more areas to conquer, like moving images, now that Vmagazine and Vman have already been spun off from Visionaire? “There is no grand plan or mission statement,” she said. “It has to be an organic project and anything creative has to come from a very personal place.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 22, 2011
A previous version of this article misspelled the surname of a co-founder of Visionaire magazine. He is Stephen Gan, not Gann.
The Times article, a direct link to the theme of the glorification of nature (collection that I will go out soon). The siren envellopée tar and all the organic matter mentioned Cecilia Dean. I think it addresses the issue enjoy considerable industry of the printing press with a sense of optimism. it is true that this mode of communication is very expensive to produce, however, I love to shop in order to procure the new Dress to Kill magazine or ZINK .... I fully support the thesis of Mrs. when she says to do something physical experience to consumers .... I understand why the name of the magazine is call Visionary61!