Record cover art has become a recognised field of collecting and exhibitions of record cover art are now quite common. Some of us collect specific artists, some collect a particular type of music (heavy metal or hip hop seem popular) while others collect more generally and have collections solely based on record covers’ artistic merit. The first collector I came in contact with was Guy Minnebach, who has an amazing collection of Andy Warhol’s record cover art. Through him I got to know to know Frank Edwards who at first collected Warhol’s record covers but later branched out to collect more generally, including a wide variety of covers by various artists. Frank Edwards’s collections have been exhibited at the Cranbrook Art Museum.
As a follower of Mike Goldstein’s Album Cover Hall of Fame blog I have had the opportunity to see a number of record cover art exhibitions online and Mike recently tipped me off about one he thought I should have seen — the Visual Vinyl exhibition at Schunk, Heerlen, The Netherlands, which ran from 28th November 2015 — 6th March 2016. Mike had just got hold of the exhibition catalogue. A beautiful 232 page hard cover book. The exhibition, curated by Lene ter Haar and Cynthia Jordens, showed hundreds of record covers from Jan van Toorn’s amazing collection ranging from the commonplace, like Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground & Nico Banana cover to more obscure releases by the Fluxus group. Many very rare covers were included and the book has pictures of a whole host of them. In the book’s final pages Jan van Toorn describes his collecting philosophy and then presents a discography of his collection listing 2200 covers ordered alphabetically by designer/artist. You won’t find any record industry designers — no Steinweiss, Jim Flora, Aubrey Powell, Roger Dean — but Peter Blake & Jann Haworth (Sgt. Pepper) and Richard Hamilton (The Beatles) are in. So are Banksy and Damien Hirst. Art bands like Sonic Youth get included.
Jan van Toorn lists several covers by David Shrigley in his discography, but none is pictured in the book. He also has one of Andy Warhol’s Giant Size $1.57 Each covers from the numbered limited edition of 75 copies made by Billy Klüver for German gallery owner Heiner Friedrich in 1971.
However, van Toorn doesn’t seem to know the history behind this record cover. He suggests that these 75 covers were all that Warhol produced. In fact, it was Swedish engineer turned artists’ assistant. Billy Klüver who had made the eleven interviews with the pop artists included in the Popular Image Exhibition in Washington D.C. in 1963 who asked Warhol to help make covers for the LPs of the interviews that he had had pressed for the exhibition (at the show, they were sold in envelopes designed by Jim Dine, together with the exhibition catalogue.) Klüver obviously had records over and in 1963 he and Warhol screen printed hundreds of covers, some with white backgrounds, others with green, red, orange or green spray-painted backgrounds that Billy Klüver took charge of. When Heiner Friedrich, a German gallery owner, asked for a limited edition, Klüver took 75 white covers with records and asked Warhol to sign and number them and Friedrich sold them at his gallery. Klüver later sold copies of the coloured covers, some with records, some without. And a few of the white variety were sold at Andy Warhol’s first international retrospective at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet in January-February 1968.
The Visual Vinyl book is a great addition to my library.