Decked out in camouflage and strewn with tufts of grass, Sophie Calle would be unrecognisable on Wallpaper’s November issue limited-edition cover, were it not for her signature tinted eyewear.

We invited the leading conceptual artist, known for narrative-driven works that excavate the depths of human experience, to present her latest project, A L’Affût (On the Hunt) in our November art special. Alongside, she has cast herself as cover star, selecting a self-portrait in which she is disguised as a tree.

A L’Affût has its roots in a commission from Paris’ Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, or museum of hunting and nature. As a starting point, Calle ploughed through the archives of the monthly hunting magazine Le Chasseur Français, discovering that it had been publishing lonely hearts ads since 1895. She then decided to devise a catalogue of the main qualities sought by men in female partners, and by women in male partners, discovering key themes across each decade. ‘They followed the trends of society. At first, money. Then virginity. After the war, many were related to physicality – a paralysed soldier could now accept a cleft lip,’ she explains.

The quest for a potential mate, Calle seems to suggest, is not unlike the hunt for wild game: calling for meticulous strategy and clear intent, but inevitably dependent on fate. For all the trappings of civilisation, humans in search of partnership and love still practice many of the same rituals as our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and so we have more in common with our natural origins than we often realise.

In her new book showcasing the project (titled Sans Lui, or Without Him, alluding to the death of her longtime book editor Xavier Barral), Calle presents 125 years of matrimonial ads, the most recent ones drawn from online dating platforms as print classifieds went out of vogue. These are interspersed with her photographs of hunting watchtowers in the French countryside – functional structures viewed through an architectural lens; and highway surveillance images in black and white that show all varieties of game. There is a palpable sense that while the qualities of an ideal spouse may shift with the times, the hunt goes on.

Within our November issue, Calle took over a 20-page section to showcase ads from 1905-1914, when wealth and virtue were top priorities, and then 1950-60, a pointedly different era when men prioritised women they would call a ‘good catch, able to replace dead mother’, and women wanted ‘essentially kind and gentle’ men. These have been translated into English for the first time, and as in the book, paired with images of watchtowers and prey. It was on one of her countryside sojourns to find watchtowers that Calle shot the cover image, inserting herself into the project with  poetry, bravado and that distinctive dash of humour.

As with all our artist covers, Calle’s cover design is available exclusively for Wallpaper* subscribers. The rest of the magazine, including Calle’s 20-page portfolio and a profile by Wallpaper* Paris editor Amy Serafin, is now available as a free PDF download here. §