2009 “Ultimate Destination”
Cover: New Yorker by Jacques de
Loustal, The New Yorker, 20
Une nouvelle couverture du New Yorker pour Loustal, pour le numéro du 20
avril 2009, avec un dessin intitulé "Ultimate destination".
Sempé Fi (On Covers): Journey's End
A collection of world monuments grace the cover of the April 20, 2009, issue
of The New Yorker. These are the landmarks you have to see before you die—or
at least, that's what people say. It may be that one becomes reincarnated as
a docent at the Taj Mahal or a Qualified, Talented, Experienced,
Enthusiastic, Friendly employee of Walking Tours of Pisa, thus making your
travels in this lifetime pointless.
Despite the world's construction efforts and fervid competition between
nations, the list of famous world landmarks has remained fairly standard
over the past half-century or so. New buildings and structures have not
supplanted Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty. The London
Eye has not become the landmark most associated with London.
In Italy, efforts to recreate the "Bilbao Effect," the economic boom that
occurred after the building of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in that
Basque city, have produced exciting, interesting buildings (Renzo Piano's
Parco della Musica; Richard Meier's Jubilee Church; Meier's Ara Pacis
Museum), none of which are instantly recognizable landmarks, although we can
judge Berlusconi's Ego to be a recognizable Italian landmark.
China, despite gargantuan Olympic efforts, still relies on that ancient but
great Wall to the north, as ineffective against marauding Mongolians in
centuries past as it is effective at pulling in tourists.
Jacques de Loustal, who is, according to his website, a fan of the Fauvists,
here holds back from the vivid coloring that characterizes his work and that
of the Fauvist movement. His New Yorker cover is almost lugubrious, as if he
were expressing the fact that all of the challenges and adventures
associated with traveling are gone. Gone are the strong reds and bright
blues that usually characterize his work.
His cover, entitled "Ultimate Destination," is ultimately an exercise in
sobriety, displaying little of the playfulness seen in his other
travel-themed cover for The New Yorker, for example, which depicted two
travelers dressed for a hard winter strolling across an exotic, subtropical
"How do you see these trees? They are yellow," Gauguin once advised. "So,
put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine;
these red leaves? Put in vermilion." De Loustal puts in none of these.
Perhaps it is intentional. All travel requires these days is a stroll in a
graveyard of monuments, where we're immunized from "real life" in Russia,
China, or Australia, for example. Perhaps we are all traveling gnomes when
we travel, and all we require is to have our picture taken in front of a
landmark. And then we move on. We have conquered and landmark-spotted the
monuments on our list, and now we can ignore the country and the routes that
The famous monuments have been transplanted for the benefit of two
well-dressed travelers, who drag Samsonites down an unmarked and lonely
route. The Statue of Liberty shares the same Loustalian waterway with a
Venetian gondola, while the Parthenon looks over both. The Leaning Tower of
Pisa tilts perilously close to the Pyramids while the Eiffel Tower remains
as ramrod straight as a 1,000-foot baguette.
The world is flatter and the world is smaller. In this shrunken world of
ours, it is possible to get a picture taken in front of St. Basil's
Cathedral and the next day find oneself at the Sydney Opera House's gift
shop, located in the lower concourse of that New South Wales landmark.
You'll be exhausted, of course, which will explain your purchase of a box of
authentic tile fragments collected during the building's original
construction and sold for 135 Australian dollars.
As the Spanish say, "el mundo es un pañuelo"—"the world is a handkerchief,"
and the world has become more a single ultimate destination devoid of
context than a series of diverse, disparate locations.