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George Lois' Esquire Covers to Go on Display at MoMA

Legendary designer's controversial work influenced a generation.

By Dylan Stableford

George Lois—the legendary art director whose iconic 1960s Esquire covers influenced an entire generation of magazine designers—is getting his due in the art world.

Lois' work for Esquire is set to go on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art later this month. The show, "George Lois: The Esquire Covers," is scheduled to run from April 25 to March 31, 2009.

A wall in the gallery will feature original artwork alongside seven of his most iconic covers, including his controversial portrayals of Muhammad Ali (as the Christian martyr St. Sebastian) and Andy Warhol. The museum will feature 32 of the 92 covers Lois did for Esquire between 1962 and 1972.

Lois was credited with pioneering cover montages that would often include multiple elements, including clip-art—now a common practice in the digital era—and a minimalist design approach.

His December 1963 cover, featuring boxer Sonny Liston as a black Santa Claus, sparked substantial criticism and reportedly lost Esquire an estimated $750,000 in ad revenue, according to the release accompanying the exhibit. But riding critical acclaim—much of it driven by Lois' covers—Esquire made more than $3 million in profit as annual circulation rose from 500,000 to 2.5 million.

By Dylan Stableford


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