Harlequin Celebrates 60 Years Of Provocative Cover Art

Romance publisher Harlequin is celebrating its 60th anniversary with an exhibition of book covers over the years, and we couldn’t help but want to celebrate with them.

Today, we stopped by the opening of “Heart of a Woman: Harlequin Cover Art 1949-2009” at Openhouse Gallery on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, a stunning display of hundreds of classic Harlequin cover art over the years, complete with little history lessons about the art and artists and an interactive wall that puts your face on the cover.

(Fun fact learned from the exhibit: “The trend toward featuring photographs of scantily clad, contemporary men rather than painted images of historic heros suggested that women had grown increasingly interested in the objectified male body.”)

On hand to toast Harlequin’s diamond anniversary today were New York Times best selling authors Gena Showalter and Debbie Macomber, as well as Harlequin CEO Donna Hayes.

Hayes told FishbowlNY that the point of the exhibit was “to represent through our covers how women’s lives have changes since our company has been in business.”

And to celebrate the long history of the publisher, Harlequin is also offering women free gifts — like digital copies of 16 books of different genres — available at harlequincelebrates.com.

“It’s our goal to give a free book to every woman in America,” Hayes said, adding that about 50 percent of the Canadian publisher’s sales come from the U.S. Harlequin books are also selling all over the world, like in Japan where they are transformed into manga comics and distributed for women to read on their cell phones.

The digital format is also ideal for their audience, Hayes said. “We want to create entertainment for women delivered to them whenever and where ever they shop.”

But for New York readers, the Harlequin cover art exhibit brings the publisher’s books a close to home. It runs through June 12, and is a perfect stop for anyone in town for the BookExpo America, Mediabistro Circus or Internet Week.

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