Visual Vinyl– An Exhibition of Jan van Toorn’s Amazing Collection of Record Cover Art.

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.

5 thoughts on “Visual Vinyl– An Exhibition of Jan van Toorn’s Amazing Collection of Record Cover Art.”

  1. Fabulous post. Shoutout to Mike G too!
    Love the $1.57 story and that book, wow! Do you happen to know if it is commercially available? (It would look rather fine next to the Mati Klarwein book 🙂 )

  2. Thanks for the feedback and congratulations on getting hold of a copy of the Visual Vinyl book!
    Do you have Mati Klarwein’s Mat & the Music book? If so, I’m insanely jealous🤢!

  3. Thanks for the article about Jan van Toorn’s collection. I learned something of great interest, and I’m hoping you can answer a question.

    I’ve recently completed writing a series of articles for *Beatlefan *magazine about the art of The Beatles’ album covers. Each article was published in the magazine’s issue celebrating the album’s 50th anniversary. I’m now writing an article about the entire set of covers: 14 in total released in the UK from 1963-1970. One thing I’ve learned in researching my articles is that claims about The Beatles being the first to do just about anything are usually wrong, including their “first” in album covers. No, they weren’t the first to have a gatefold cover; no, they we’re the first to not have their name on a cover; no, they weren’t the first to print their lyrics on a back cover, and so on.

    I’m now writing an overview article about the entire set of Beatles’ covers: 14 in total released in the UK from 1963-1970. During my research for Beatlefan one of the few things I did not find was an example of an album cover by another artist with edition numbers, as used on the album *The Beatles* (better known as “The White Album”). I thought I could make a statement that, while The Beatles weren’t the first to do most anything you could think of, as far I knew they were the first and only artists to include sequential open edition numbers on an album cover. Your timely article made me aware of Warhol’s *Giant Size* cover and saved me from that false conclusion. Thank you!

    I’d like to get my understanding of the Warhol story straight so I’m hoping you can clarify something for me. You state:

    “Jan van Toorn…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 Swiss gallery owner Bruno Bischoffberger in 1971…When Bruno Birchoffberger asked for a limited edition, Klüver took 75 white covers with records and asked Warhol to sign and number them and Birchoffberger sold them at his gallery.”

    I google searched *Giant Size*, I came across several other postings with somewhat different information. What seems to be the most authoritative is by ROCKDOC999, which states:

    “Andy Warhol produced the “Giant Size $1.57 Each” sleeve in five variations with the help of Billy Klüver, who had recorded the interviews with the artists involved in the “Popular Images” exhibition at the (now defunkt) Washington Gallery of Modern Art that ran from 18th April until 2nd June, 1963. The exact history is not known. A first edition of 75 sleeves with black image screened directly onto the coated stock record sleeve, each signed and numbered on verso was produced in 1963. He could even have printed the coloured covers at the same time or, having saved the screen, made them in 1971. Editions of 75 copies each, silkscreening the black “Giant Size” image onto sleeves that he had first spray painted. There were yellow, green, red and orange editions. These were sold in 1971.”

    See the full story at: https://recordart.net/category/giant-size-1-57-each/

    My question is, was the *Giant Size* signed and numbered white cover edition of 75 created in 1963 or 1971? It may be the way I’m reading this material and I’m just confused. The date matters as “The White Album” was released in November 1968 and I’d like to know if Andy beat The Beatles to the punch! Also, do you have a photo of Andy’s signature and number on an album that you could share with me?

    Thank you for your time and patience and I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Ken Orth

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