Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century, 2008

Santiago Calatrava draws sketches in a notebook
Santiago Calatrava Cube Portrait 1

Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century, 2008, CUBE

Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century is one element of the magazine’s 75th Anniversary celebration. Esquire’s anniversary issue, to be published in September, will examine the century that is just beginning, in part by profiling the 75 most influential people of the 21st century (including Lebron James, Elon Musk, M.I.A., George Clooney, Samantha Powers & Marc Jacobs all featured in the CUBE). Esquire and Hearst commissioned the sculptor and new-media artist Lincoln Schatz to create a work that would unite many of these people in a single dynamic portrait.

From May through September, Schatz will create dozens of individual portraits in his CUBE, a ten-foot-by-ten-foot translucent box fitted with 24 cameras that stream digital video to 24 computers. During each one-hour sitting, CUBE subjects are encouraged to represent their personalities, interests, and values in whatever ways they choose. Then, using thousands of these video files, Schatz creates a portrait made up of a randomized, perpetually evolving progression of overlapping images. Moored in the moment but never quite the same thing twice, Schatz’s “generative” portraits have an infinite ability to reconfigure perception and reorder time.

As Schatz finishes each individual sitting, the installation will grow and change to accommodate the new arrivals. “Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century,” a collective work combining all the individual portraits, will be completed just as the anniversary issue reaches newsstands.

— David Granger, Editor-in-Chief, Esquire


Generally, portraiture has historically been a means to immortality for the sitter. Traditionally portraits are staged, single moments bound by the time in which the individual modeled for the artist. However, Lincoln Schatz builds on this tradition with a new multi-disciplinary work, CUBE that also questions it’s truth. CUBE combines attributes of architecture, sculpture, new media, relational aesthetics, and performance. The resulting work is an exploration of contemporary portraits through video and computer technology filmed at Hearst Tower.

CUBE, a 10’ x 10’ translucent architectural structure. CUBE extends from the artist’s formal background as a sculptor and draws on his more recent practice in generative video memory artworks. To start, Schatz mounts 24 cameras at varying heights on the outside of the CUBE. After that, the cameras send a video stream to an attached computer. In addition, this computer houses the artist’s specially designed software. Following on the recording sessions, thousands of randomly selected video files are used in real time to create each portrait. A plasma screend displays the finished artwork. As a result of the filming process, 24 cameras will generate a 24-hour rendering. For Schatz, CUBE extends beyond the historical notions of portraiture as a static image. Finally creating a lasting record that is wholly dynamic in its ability to reconfigure images and reorder time.

CUBE acknowledges the tradition of portraits as being biographical. Moreover, Schatz encourages his subjects to represent their personalities, interests and values in their portrait. As a result, the artist collaborates with the participants to help them develop their approach to an hour in the CUBE.

Filming For CUBE


Filming for Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century, transpired in Hearst Tower’s newly opened lobby space. In 2010, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery acquired the full project, Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century, and is now a part of their permanent collection. And finally, please click any of the images below to learn more about the subjects featured in Esquire’s Portrait of the 21st Century video project.