Arts & Entertainment

Argentine magazine cover exhibit invites reflection on contemporary history

By Augusto Morel

Buenos Aires, Apr 6 (EFE).- “Faces,” a cultural anthropology exhibit in the Argentine capital featuring nearly 650 magazine covers from around the world, invites visitors to draw their own interpretations of contemporary history and re-examine the era in which we live.

Those covers, which are framed like artwork and capture different moments in time, are displayed on four stories of the Vertical Room at the General San Martin Cultural Center in Buenos Aires.

They offer a look at different ways of depicting the passage of time and at the themes and topics that had an impact in each country and culture, while also encouraging self-reflection.

The exhibit’s owner and curator, Juan Cantafio, told Efe that visitors should think of the magazine covers as mirrors. “The idea is to recognize ourselves and engage in dialogue with ourselves through the images of others,” he added.

The different facial expressions and attention-grabbing headlines make it impossible to turn away. The exhibited items span 100 years of human history yet are just a small part of a private collection of 400,000 magazine covers, the largest in Latin America.

The person on each magazine cover has something to say, whether his or her expression is more obvious or subtle. In either case, the exhibit leverages people’s compelling urge to find meaning in every face that appears.

Cantafio spent 52 years compiling the collection through his own resources, drawing from more than 50 different genres of domestic and international magazines spanning the period from 1920 to 2020.


The gallery is divided into 28 sections that show different ways of representing the human face and allow viewers to draw their own conclusions about these images from the fashion world and the political and social spheres.

Certain treasures stand out among the rest because of their context or aesthetic value, such as the iconic National Geographic cover “Afghan Girl” featuring Sharbat Gula.

The photo of that Pashtun child, who was living in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was taken in 1984 by photojournalist Steve McCurry and provides a glimpse into the plight of refugees amid armed conflicts.

Also part of the exhibit is the famed 1960 photo by Alberto Korda of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an image known as “Guerrillero Heroico” (Heroic Guerrilla Fighter) that has become a fashion symbol and is seen on T-shirts and other items worn by leftists worldwide.

In Cantafio’s collection, it graces the Canadian French-language edition of Photo magazine in October 1997 to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary.

Other magazine covers feature the face of late Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona at different moments of his life, providing a look at how the media covered both his greatest triumphs and his fall from grace.


The curator has taken utmost care with each item in the collection, which he began gathering at the age of eight.

One of his grandfathers, who was unable to read or write himself but wanted to cultivate that desire in his grandson, got it started by gifting him a copy of the popular Argentine children’s magazine Anteojito.

“I understood his love for me when I found out he’d go to work just so I would have something to read when I wasn’t at school,” Cantafio recalled.

He now wants to preserve his collection for posterity, particularly at a time when paper as a means of storing information is in danger of extinction.

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