Artists create covers for imaginary Bulgarian edition of iconic magazine
The New Yorker is an institution; a magazine bought and read by generations for its captivating and meticulously researched, fact-checked and proofread texts, the dry witticism of its cartoons and the illustrated covers that offer a visual commentary on both local and global issues.
For two years now, Sofia has had its own version of The New Yorker – sort of. The Sofianer is an project that invites artists to create covers for an imaginary Bulgarian edition of the magazine. The idea is not unique to Sofia – there is also The Brusseler, The Tokyoiter, The Parisianer, Le Montrealer and The Shanghairen. All of them aim to emulate the intent of the original cover by focusing on the spirit and idiosyncrasies of the respective city.
The Sofianer is a project of MultiKulti Collective, an NGO, and the Credo Bonum gallery that started in 2022 and continues in 2023. Over 100 artists, both new and established, applied for the current edition of The Sofianer. A jury selected 28 works that were shown at an outdoor exhibition and are now available to buy as prints on sofianer.com.
What does Sofia look like through the eyes of The Sofianer? Just as in the other versions of The New Yorker, local artists present their city through an often sentimental lens, as if showing it to a foreign friend with a mixture of pride and self-irony. In The Parisianer we see people jumping over metro turnstiles, in The Sofianer we see a tram conductor boxing with a passenger travelling without a ticket. An old lady is trying on cheap underwear from a dollar shop right on one of Sofia's hippest streets, and the city's bad pavements feature in more than one entry.
The city centre and its hip, young people dominate the covers – few artists have turned their attention to the prefabricated concrete neighbourhoods and their inhabitants, where in actual fact the majority of Sofianers live. Unlike The New Yorker, The Sofianer's covers lack bite, even when depicting some of the city’s most serious issues – one presents overdevelopment not as a problem that should provoke anger and protest, but as something deserving quiet contemplation from one's own cute balcony.
Is this because Bulgarian artists are generally reluctant to dabble in politics and the social and environmental issues of the day, or is it because of the task itself – to create a cover for a non-existent magazine instead of one that goes to print every week? Maybe it is a little bit of both.
Despite this, The Sofianer does offer a fresh take on Sofia and its people. You can see the current winners and those from 2022 on sofianer.com.