Will Cotton, who might go to the grave as being the artist who made that Katy Perry album cover, was one of the few artists who got Playboy’s conceit: he submitted an image of a sultry, cotton candy-covered model (something he knows how to do pretty well). For the most part, she’s covered up, like the good girl next door you’d expect from Playboy in its heyday.
Richard Prince submitted something a bit rowdier with one of his Girlfriends. Here’s a young, topless woman posed in front of a rusty motorcycle emblazoned with a Playboy logo. The woman is hot, with gigantic breasts, but with her eyes furtively cast downward, she’s not interested in a viewer’s grubby gaze. Centerfolds are supposed to suspend that fantasy, that they dig you, the reader, but this one doesn’t care so much.
Jill Magid’s Full Consent was made specifically for Playboy, but it’s not so much a centerfold as a reminder of what you’re getting into when you’re looking at the mag. It’s a strip of neon letters reading “With Full Consent.” You get the picture, even without a girl posing in front of the camera.
Next, we’ve got Wes Lang’s ode to the Playboy mansion, Heartland (2012). His drawings map out the life of need, luxury, and pleasure associated with Playboy and its promise of “blue skies from now on.” But Lang’s image still isn’t a centerfold.
Ryan McGinness showed a topless hot pink roller girl cartoon. She looks maybe pregnant or like a robot.
Cindy Sherman brought some BDSM to Playboy’s mainstream, vanilla presentation of sexiness. Hers is a centerfold alright, just not one you’d expect to find in a girlie mag, featuring prosthetic legs and a gimp mask. Playboy models feature prosthetic limbs, too; they’re just usually round and sit at chest-level.
The final artist commission, Tracy Emin’s Lonely Chair Drawing V shows a sketch of a flaccid female, flopped on a chair. It’s anything but sexy, unless you find depressed girls sexy. This, alongside a handful of the other works, don’t look a thing like the pictorials found in the other pages of this issue.
It’s worth mentioning that Emin and Sherman went full-frontal in their images, which is more daring than what you’ll find in the rest of Playboy. In this issue, Miss January and February are shown frolicking topless in the snow and at sea, but there’s no up close crotch shots. That’s something art can do that Playboy wouldn’t dare.