New Yorkistan – December 10, 2001

"New Yorkistan" is the title of the cover art for the December 10, 2001 edition of The New Yorker magazine.

New Yorkistan” is the title of the cover art for the December 10, 2001 edition of The New Yorker magazine.

The cover gained unexpected popularity, with the New Yorker making approximately $400,000 by February 2002 by selling copies of the picture as “signed lithographs” (all 750 copies of which sold out within 4 days) and unsigned posters.

It was created by Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz who did the actual painting and is (according to the American Society of Magazine Editors) #14 on the list of the top 40 magazine covers of the past 40 years.

It depicts the boroughs of New York City, as well as individual neighbourhoods within the city, giving each a humorous name (a “funny mixture of Yiddish, Persian, and New Yorkisms”) based on the history or geography of that area of the city, while playfully using names or suffixes common in the Middle East and Central Asia, such as “-stan”. Thus the title, “New Yorkistan”.

According to Kalman, the inspiration for the cover arose in a car on the way to a party. She and Meyerowitz were talking about tribalism. At one point she came up with the idea of “Bronxistan”, to which Meyerowitz replied, “You know, we’ve got a map here.”[1] Originally, the picture was to be run on the back page of the magazine, but editors liked it so much that it was decided to make it the cover picture.

Susan Jarratt describes the cover as “lampooning both New Yorkers’ city-bound geographic consciousness and a nationwide ignorance of the geography of Central Asia”. Jarratt notes that it was one of the first “humorous interventions” since the events of September 11, 2001. Urschel notes that this timing of the cover’s publication was fortunate. Kalman herself commented on the timing, saying that “if [the cover had come] out earlier, many would have been infuriated, and if it [had come] out later, no one would have cared.”

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