Cover art for Madonna by Mr. Brainwash.

Street art has become mainstream. Street artists are increasingly in demand as commercial artists and recording artists are turning to these readily identifiable painters for cover art for their recordings. In America, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and  designed record covers in the eighties, and Shepard Fairey, Robert del Naja (aka 3D) and Banksy (the latter two in the UK) produced covers mainly from the nineties onwards.

Covers by Basquiat and Fairey‘s art covers are very collectible and many are currently very expensive as they were produced in limited editions. Vinyl covers with Banksy designs are also rare and command high prices. I was lucky enough to start collecting Banksy’s record cover art relatively early and have managed to collect what I consider to be a complete collection of his record cover art. Thierry Guetta–better known as Mr. Brainwash–is a more recent street artist to design record sleeves. So far I have only been able to identify three such covers; all for Madonna. He designed the cover for her 2009 compilation “Celebration” which was released on vinyl as a 4 LP set in a gatefold cover.

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“Celebration” 4LP cover.
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Rear cover of “Celebration” 4 LP set.

There is also a 12″ EP of “Celebration” remixes.

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The cover of the 12″ EP with remixes.

Then there are a variety of CD releases. The standard double CD uses the same Mr. Brainwash image as the LP set, but there is a slightly different (more anemic) variation also.

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Alternative CD cover art.

And the 12″ picture disc and CD singles hare the same artwork:

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12″ picture disc with Celebration remixes.
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The CD single of “Celebration”

A couple of other records turned up when I searched http://www.discogs.com for other cover art by Mr. Brainwash and I fell for one that I thought probably was by him–Travis Barker‘s “Give the Drummer Some“:

Unfortunately, this cover is NOT by Mr. Brainwash but is by Pushead (aka Brian Schroeder, who, according to Wikipedia, is a graphic designer and record label owner.) More of his designs may be seen here. Skulls seem to be his speciality!

The Art of Mike & Doug Starn–Another Way to Collect Record Cover Art.

A while ago I went to Wetterling Gallery,one of Stockholm’s premier galleries, to view an exhibition and saw two paintings by twin artists Mike & Doug Starn. These paintings were abstract works painted on record covers which were hung with magnets onto a metal backing plate allowing each record cover to be removed and the record contained within played! Each individual record cover still had its original album inside.

On 11th June the Wetterling Gallery held an opening reception for a repeat show of Mike & Doug Starn’s art with the artists in attendance.

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Mike & Doug Starn in front of their painting “Monitor: Feed Your Head”

There were six large works and two smaller ones in the show–all painted on record covers.

According to my count there were a total of 201 record covers used for these eight artworks. I wondered if Mike and Doug raided all the secondhand record stores to source the covers. There seemed not to be any logic in the arrangement of the covers, not in the motifs painted on them, with the exception of the “Little Richard” painting. And as the exhibition was called “Iggy and Franz”, I assumed the painting with the androgyn figure, called “I’m Only Five Foot One”, pictured Iggy Pop.

These paintings were not cheap! Prices ranged from $10,000 + VAT for the two single cover works to $195,000 + VAT for the largest ones. Somewhat out of my price range.

A Previously Unknown CD with Banksy Art.

Ebay is a remarkable research tool. I regularly do searches of various Ebay markets looking for records by artists I collect–and when I write “artists” I don’t mean the band or similar, I mean the graphic artist who designed the cover.

I am constantly on the lookout for new covers by the artist known as Banksy–the latest one I had found was the Boys in Blue single “Funk tha Police” from 2015. I found a Banksy pastiche by Junichi Masuda on his “Pokémon” test pressing and a limited edition copy of this cover a year or so ago. But nothing with a new Banksy design since 2013 whn a download by TerranceK used Banksy’s “Death of a Phone Booth” on this EP.

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TerranceK’s “Hot Line” EP from 2013, only available as a download.

Anyway, a CD entitled “Skateboards” with Banksy’s “Insane Clown” cover image turned up a month or so ago. I had not heard of this CD before, despite it having been released in 2000, It was a promotional EP for Clown Skateboards, some of which used the Banksy image.

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The cover of “Skateboards” CD booklet with Banksy’s “Insane Clown” image.

The CD contains two tracks each by Dynamic Duo (DJs Niall Dailly and Bryan Jones a.k.a. DJ Extra) and Nasty-P. I discovered that Dynamic Duo also released one of the tracks “Style by the Dozen” on a 12″, with the “Insane Clown” image on the label.

 

The Thoughts of Gilbert & George LP.

I saw the Gilbert and George exhibition at the Tate Modern about 10 years ago. It was so huge that I and my friends hadn’t the stamina to see it all at one go, so we chickened out halfway. In February 2019 Moderna Museet in Stockholm opened another Gilbert and George retrospective entitled “The Great Exhibition“, which ran from 9th February to 12th May 2019. Gilbert and George visited Stockholm in the week preceding the exhibition’s opening to design the show and I had the opportunity to meet the artists to get my copy of their LP “The Thoughts of Gilbert & George” autographed in person.

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“The Thoughts of Gilbert & George” LP cover.

This album was released by the Museum of Modern Art in New York on 3rd August 2016 in a signed and numbered limited edition of 2000 copies. It was signed on the inner spread of the gatefold cover. My copy, No. 1145 arrived in 2017.

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My doubly signed copy of the “Thoughts of Gilbert & George” album.

In addition the artists gave me a copy of the exhibition catalogue, which they kindly dedicated.

I spent a charming ten minutes chatting with Gilbert and George before hurrying away with my goodies. I visited the exhibition itself the following week and was impressed by the limited size of the show and the brilliant arrangement and hanging of the works. Often in art exhibitions ‘less is more’. Definitely true of this show.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” Revisited.

I described the 50th anniversary box set of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” in a post in July 2017. Way back in 2008–2009, when I was preparing an exhibition of Sir Peter Blake’s record cover art, I felt that Jann Haworth, his former wife and co-designer of Blake’s most famous cover, had almost been forgotten. Whenever one reads about Peter Blake, in articles or exhibition catalogues, he is invariably introduced as “the designer of the Sgt. Pepper cover”. Indeed, he has said that this is “an albatross sitting on his shoulder”. So I contacted Jann and she was most helpful providing details of the construction of the Pepper set up and even sent pictures. She also agreed to sign my copy  original “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” LP that Peter Blake had previously signed.

We discussed the gender and racial imbalances of the figures represented on the cover and Jann told me this was something she had been thinking about and tried to redress in a “Pepper” mural in her home town of Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.

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Jann Haworth’s 2004 mural “SLC Pepper” in Salt Lake City (SLC).

In late 2018 I bought a copy of the 50th anniversary “Sgt. Pepper” LP signed by Sir Peter Blake at a gallery in Liverpool. I thought it would be cool to have this anniversary album signed by both Blake and Haworth, so I contacted her again. She was more than happy to help out and I didn’t waste a moment before posting the record and a couple of other “Pepper” covers to the address I had been given ten years before. I should have checked Jann’s address before posting as it transpired she had moved from the old address. Despite her efforts to trace the parcel it was never delivered to her but found its way back to me in January 2019. So, I repackaged the covers and, after confirming Jann’s address, sent them again.

Jann was busy painting two new murals and had a deadline to keep, so the covers sat with her until the end of March. They arrived in mid April. Jann had signed nine items:
1. The 2017 Pepper anniversary LP signed previously by Peter Blake,
2. The Album cover from the 2017 box set containing four CDs, a DVD & a Blu-Ray disc
3. All four of the CD covers from the above,
4. The stage set from the Japanese 50th anniversary box set, and
5. The cover of an old 1967 copy of “Sgt. Pepper”.
6. The insert from the above.

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the 2017 LP cover signed by both Jann Haworth and Sir Peter Blake.

In the package was a handwritten letter describing the soft figures she made for the Pepper cover. She had made the Shirley Temple doll in 1965 or 1966 and, on the cover, it was sitting in the lap of an old lady. I had never really noticed the old lady–and I suspect few other people had either. The old lady, Jann told me,was modelled on a photo of her great grandmother, a seamstress who had been widowed early and had to raise two children on her own.

Since the arrival of the signed records Jann has kept me informed of some of her current projects, including a joint “Work in Progress” mural with her daughter Liberty Blake. This mural is in seven panels and has been shown in several museums.

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Jann Haworth’s and Liberty Blake’s “Work in Progress” mural.

I recently asked her if she had been involve in any other designs for record covers and it transpires that she has produced one other–a limited edition artwork.

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Jann Haworth’s & Joe Ephgrave’s 2017 cover for a cardboard record.

Jann told me of her work with Joe Ephgrave, the fairground painter who painted the drum om the “Sgt. Pepper” cover. He painted different versions of the Pepper title on each side of the drum. The one we are all familiar with, and another version that he considered “more modern”, that I had not seen until now.

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Joe Ephgrave’s alternate version of the “Sgt. Pepper” drum.

Joe was paid £25 for the drum painting and disappeared soon afterwards. Internet searches have failed to find any information about him–and there are suggestions that he never existed! However, Jann has scotched that rumour. She has taken Joe’s painting of a tiger and produced a record cover of sorts. In July 2008 the “Pepper” drum was sold at Christie’s for £541,250 ($1.07 million).

To almost round off my collection of the 50th anniversary issues of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” releases I added the limited edition picture disc to my collection.

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The US limited edition picture disc.

The only version of the 50th anniversary issues of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” releases I don’t yet have is the double LP version. Perhaps I’ll try to get that some day.

 

Exhibitions of Record Cover Art I have been involved in.

The resurgence of vinyl records in recent years has focused interest on record cover art. Covers by famous artists and designers command big money today. Who would have guessed that collecting record cover art would become its own specialty collecting area, with some covers costing thousands of pounds/dollars/euros? Galleries and museums have begun to show an interest in showing record cover art and the number of exhibitions has increased exponentially in recent years but the idea isn’t new. The first exhibition of record cover art that I visited was called “Skivomslag” (Record Covers), arranged by Kristian Jakobsen after an idea by Thomas Ohrt and had been first shown at in 1980 at Vejle Konstmuseum before reappearing at Aarhus Konstmuseum in Denmark from 5th September to 4th October 1981. The exhibition moved to Stockholm’s National Museum on 27th October and ran until 17th January 1982. And then moved (in modified form) to Bildmuseet in Umeå in northern Sweden. That exhibition was the first where I saw a few covers designed by Andy Warhol collected. The accompanying exhibition catalogue contained essays by Thomas Ohrt on the development of record cover design as well as an essay by Bo Nilsson on Andy Warhol‘s record cover art (thirty years later Nilsson, as head of Artipelag’s gallery outside Stockholm, would curate his own Warhol exhibition (“The Legacy of Andy Warhol“) including a number of prints of Warhol‘s record covers.)

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Catalogue from Nationalmuseets 1981-2 exhibition “Skivomslag” (record covers).

I didn’t hear of any exhibitions of record cover art after the Umeå showing of the National Museum exhibition but had discussed the possibility of putting on my own exhibition of Andy Warhol‘s cover art with the organisers of the Piteå Dansar of Ler (Piteå Dances & Smiles) music festival that I attended every year. In 2008 Piteå Museum allowed us to put on “Happy Birthday Andy Warhol“, to coincide with what would have been Warhol’s 80th birthday and I wrote a catalogue text (in Swedish) listing the (then) known Warhol covers.

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The catalogue for the Happy Birthday Andy Warhol exhibition, 2008.

Together with co-curator Guy Minnebach, we found sixty-five covers, including the recently discovered “Waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr.” that Guy had found at a record fair. Little did I know that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts would host an exhibition entitled “Andy Warhol ‘Live’” (view a video here) from October 2008, where the focus would be on Warhol‘s love of music and where a “complete” collection of Warhol‘s record covers was presented “for the first time” (not so, as we had done if two months earlier!) The record collection was from Paul Maréchal‘s personal collection and his book of Warhol covers “Andy Warhol-The Record Covers 1949-1987, Catalogue Raisonné” was launched at the exhibition. It included some covers that we had not known about in our exhibition, notably the “Night Beat” box set and the Margarita MadrigalMadrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish“, but not the RATFABDet brinner en eld/Mörka ögon” single that wasn’t identified until after the exhibition.

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The Complete Commissioned Record Covers, 1949-1987.

The following year, the organisers of Piteå Dansar of Ler allowed me to present an exhibition of Peter Blake’s record cover art, again at Piteå Museum, and called “Sir Peter Blake “Pop” Art“. Another catalogue was made listing all Blake’s known covers.

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The catalogue cover for the “Pop Art” Exhibition of Sir Peter Blake’s record cove art at Piteå Museum, July 22nd–August 31st 2009.

The next exhibition that I curated was in 2010, again in association with Piteå Dansar och Ler, was of the Swedish band Kent’s record and poster art, which we called ”På nära håll” (Close by), after a song on one of their albums. We were lucky to be able to get Jonas Linell to show original photographs of early Kent record covers as well as autographed copies of most of the band’s vinyl releases (rare in the nineties, as most music was then only released on CD). The catalogue for this exhibition was a folder in the form of a 7-inch gatefold record cover with all the Kent released pictured on the centre spread and the catalogue text on an insert in the form of a 7-inch record. Jonas Linell’s photo of the band graces the catalogue’s cover.

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The catalogue tothe Kent “På nära håll” exhibition in Piteå, July-August 2010. (Photo Jonas Linell)
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The catalogue’s inner spread showing all the Kent releases included in the exhibition.
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The catalogue text on a “record”.

Soon after the Kent exhibition, my late friend Daniel Brant, owner of the A and D Gallery in London contacted me and told me that Sir Peter Blake was launching new graphic prints at the gallery and he wondered if I could show my collection of Peter Blake’s record covers to fill out the gallery. Jan Wimander and I flew over with the covers and some rare prints of Blake’s cover art and we presented Sir Peter with a copy of the Piteå “Sir Peter Blake “Pop” Art” catalogue and he signed copies for us.

Folkets hus och parker–an organisation that spreads culture throughout Sweden in towns and parks—have organised three touring exhibitions of record sleeve art using records from my collection. The first to tour was a collection of Andy Warhol’s record covers, then Kent’s record covers and finally a collection of covers by the artist known as Banksy. Each exhibition toured various venues all over Sweden for between one and two years.

In 2012 I was approached by Stockholm’s Konserthus (Concert House) to curate an exhibition of Banksy’s record cover art. This was probably the first time that all known records with Banksy’s art were shown and the show was seen by over 60,000 people during the two months it was open. There was no proper catalogue for this exhibition, only a list of the covers.

Some tome ago I sold some records to John Brandler, owner of Brandler Galleries, which specialises in street art. We kept in touch and late in 2015 he contacted me about a planned Banksy retrospective exhibition scheduled to open in Rome in May of 2016, and wondered if I could lend my collection of Banksy records and CDs. The exhibition entitled “War, Capitalism and Liberty” opened at the Palazzo Cipolla on May 23rd and ran until September 4th. A room was dedicated to the record and CD collection.
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The latest exhibition I have been involved in is the “Warhol 1968” at Moderna Museet, Malmö. My involvement came about when I attended the opening of the exhibition in Stockholm in September 2018. That was due to close in February 2018 and move to Malmö in May. There were eight Warhol record covers on show at the Stockholm exhibition, only one wasn’t by Warhol.

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Eight record sleeves on display at “Warhol 1968” in Stockholm.

I pointed this out to John Peter Nilsson, the exhibition’s curator and told him that I had a complete collection of Warhol covers. He saw to it that the offending cover was changed and suggested that Moderna show a complete collection of Warhol’s covers when the exhibition opened in Malmö.

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One lone viewer in front of the record covers.

The “Warhol 1968” exhibition in Malmö runs until September 8th 2019.

Sometime in the near future I would like to put on an exhibition of Klaus Voormann‘s record cover art.

Warhol 1968–Exhibition at Moderna Museet, Malmö.

Andy Warhol‘s first international retrospective exhibition was held at Moderna Museet in Stockholm from 10th February to 17th March 1968. The idea for the exhibition came from Pontus Hultén, Moderna’s legendary director, and his friend and former student colleague Billy Klüver a friend of Andy Warhol’s convinced Warhol to participate. Warhol visited Moderna Museet in December 1967 to reconnoiter and agreed to submit works including some Brillo boxes, “Marilyns“, an “Electric Chair” painting, and a 10 foot “Flowers” both made specially for the show. Pontus Hultén sent his young assistant Kasper König to finalise the arrangements together with Warhol and Billy Klüver. The catalogue, authored by Olle Granath, Kasper König and Pontus Hultén, with its “Flowers” cover became a cult item and several editions were produced.
Warhol-1968 Catalogue

First editions came in a cardboard box with “Andy Warhol” printed on it. There was also a limited edition of 100 copies in a perspex box (apparently few of these were sold!) Olle Granath was charged with going through Warhol’s papers to select quotes for inclusion in the catalogue. When he had submitted them for approval, Hultén phoned him and told him he had missed an important quote that “In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes“. Granath replied that he hadn’t found that particular quote. but it was printed anyway. This caused a certain amount of anxiety as to what Warhol would say when he saw the quote in the catalogue–but Warhol simple shrugged and said that it was the sort of thing he might well have said. And it has since been ascribed to Warhol rather than to Pontus Hultén!

Moderna Museet decided to produce an exhibition in 2018 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the original exhibition. The new exhibition was not intended to reproduce the original show (which would have been impossible) but to emphasis the impact that Warhol’s art had in Sweden (and Europe, as the exhibition later travelled to Oslo and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam) at the time. This type of “exhibition study”, where a new show discusses a previous one, is becoming increasingly common in the museum world.

Interestingly, in 1968, the year of student revolt in Paris and elsewhere, the reaction in the Swedish press was divided with the more left wing papers mostly approving and the more conservative ones damning the show as “non art”!

I went to the opening of the Stockholm show, where  Kasper König was interviewed by Daniel Birnbaum, Moderna’s director, and Olle Granath held the opening speech. Then–as is my wont–I went through the show hoping to find some of Warhol‘s record covers and was rewarded just by the exhibition exit where eight covers were on show:
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As any nerd will note, one of these covers is not by Warhol. So I sought out John Peter Nilsson, the exhibition’s curator, and told him that the cover of the East Village Other‘s album was not by Warhol. I took the opportunity to tell him about my collection of Warhol (and other) covers. He saw to it the East Village Other cover was changed to Johnny Griffin’s “The Congregation“. He told me that Moderna had plans to show the exhibition at its sister museum in Malmö during 2019.

Some time later, John Peter made a home visit to inspect my collection of Warhol record covers and suggested that he include a selection of my Warhol cover collection in the new show in Malmö. We agreed to show all the covers with Warhol‘s art that were produced during his lifetime, but not showing every single variation, in all a total of 81 covers.

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John Peter Nilsson holding his favourite Warhol record cover–“The Nation’s Nightmare” from 1952.

In addition we decided to include some other items from my Warhol collection: the Aspen Magazine #3 from 1966, which includes the flexidisc with Peter Walker‘s “White Wind” and Velvet Underground‘s (in reality only John Cale) “Loop“,  Andy Warhol’s Index (book), Warhol‘s “The Beatles” from the cover of Geoffrey Stokes‘ 1980 book of the same name and magazine covers with portraits of Michael Jackson and Prince and the promotional book from Miguel Bosé‘s “Made in Spain” album.

The Warhol 1968 exhibition in Malmö was due to open on 30th March and run until 8th September 2019. I was invited to help oversee the final hanging of the record covers. These were framed with Wag the Wall‘s beautiful Magic Vinyl Display frames which really let the covers shine.

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One lone viewer in front of the record covers.

The exhibition was designed logically with a large room devoted to the art shown at the 1968 exhibition at Moderna museet in Stockholm with nine Marilyns borrowed from Louisiana, Moderna museets own “Electric Chair“, “Multiple silver Marilyns“, and the ten foot “Flowers“. Also in that room were Warhol‘s print of his plane ticket to Stockholm, December 1967 and a Warhol self portrait (both owned by Moderna). An adjacent room showed the history of Warhol‘s Brillo boxes along one wall, whilst another wall was devoted to Andy Warhol Enterprises and Warhol‘s commercial art including a portrait of “Scandinavian Beauty“. There were three exhibition cases in the middle of the room. One held two of Warhol‘s “Red books” of Polaroid pictures, another magazines with Warhol art covers and a bottle of Warhol‘s 1982 eau de toilette för men with dollar signs on the bottle. The third exhibition case contained more record-related stuff from my collection including Margarita Madrigal‘s book “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish“, “Andy Warhol’s Index (Book)“, “FAB“, the Aspen Magazine box from December 1966, a booklet from Miguel Bosé‘s “Made in Spain” promotional package and the “Swan Lake” and “Daphnis & Chlöe “LP covers.

My record covers, 80 in all, were lined in five rows on the final wall, with some more in an exhibition case nearby.

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Exhibition case with Andy Warhol’s Index (Book), Aspen Magazine “FAB” issue, the program from the Concert of Mexican Music plus Miguel Bosé’s promo booklet from his “Made in Spain” album.

There was a massive turn out for the opening evening on 29th March with crowds gathering in front of the record covers. One visitor had a large collection of records by the Velvet Underground and by Lou Reed and admitted to owning eleven copies of the Velvet Underground & Nico! Others stood in front of the covers pointing out which ones they actually owned. Many simply admired the early covers from the 1950s and others were simply overwhelmed by the sight of 80 covers on the wall.

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Posing in front of the wall of record covers. Photo: Helene Toresdotter.

Moderna Museet’s director Iris Müller-Westermann held a welcome introduction followed by John Peter Nilsson who introduced the exhibition and described Warhol‘s art and philosophy after which the multitude could wander round the exhibition before a happening with a Swiss dance troupe took place. Then there was mingle in the cafeteria with shrimp cocktail and wine or beer and a DJ played Warhol-related music. A really warm and friendly meeting with what Iris Müller-Westermann judged to be one of the biggest crowds ever at an exhibition opening  at Moderna museet in Malmö.

The exhibition opened to the public on Saturday March 30th and curator, John Peter Nilsson, hosted two very popular guided tours of the exhibition. There were 1136 visitors to the show on the opening day–quite a turnout as the average number of visitors to openings at Moderna museet in Malmö is about 600. Even the curator’s tours were more popular than at previous shows.

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The guided tour Saturday 30th March. John Peter Nilsson beside the 25 Black & White Marilyns facing the crowd.

 

 

Record sleeve art by artists I collect