In 2020, just when the Covid-19 pandemic was hitting hardest my friend Romain Beltram invited me to show some of my paintings in his Triphopshop gallery in central Stockholm. He already showed some of Iron’s work and for a month from 9th September Iron was to have an exhibition of his work at restaurant Riche — one of Stockholm’s hip places. The exhibition, curated by Carl Carboni och Lars Liljendahl, was centred around Iron’s portrait of Chinese president Xi Jinping as Bat Man — playing on the theory that the Covid-19 pandemic that started in Wuhan, China, might have spread from bats. Thus Iron portryed Xi Jinping as the Bat Man.
However, the exhibition was rapidly closed after complaints from the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm, objecting to the portrayal of the country’s president in this manner. Iron became an instant hero!
He has also satirised Ronald McDonald as the fast food chain has been accused of being resposible for the increase in obesity in recent decades. Iron has portrayed Ronald begging for forgiveness.
I have also a unique painting by Iron. He has reimagined the cover of John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy LP cover.
I think the cover art is really striking and puts a “punk” feeling on the design, which I like.
It seems that people only get around to collecting major artists’ record sleeve art when prices for paintings or limited edition prints become unaffordable. Record sleeve art — particularly on vinyl covers — must always be released in limited editions, even though the “edition” might be as big as ten or twenty thousand copies. I am sure that in the 1990s CDs were produced in far larger numbers than vinyl releases, and this is probably true up to the middle or late 2000s.
One only has to look at prices for Andy Warhol’s or Jean Michel Basquiat’s record covers to see that collectors of their art woke up very late to the fact that many of their record covers were issued in very limited quantities. And there are other examples. Record covers bearing works by Banksy have have increased in price almost exponentially in recent years as the result of all the publicity that has surrounded sales of his prints by famous auction houses. Perhaps a warning is in order here. David Shrigley’s art is becoming highly collectible. Once again, collectors have been slow to collect his record sleeve art. A little strange when one considers Shrigley’s own love of vinyl records coupled with the fact that the majority of records and cassettes with his sleeve art are very limited editions, often produced by art galleries or as own releases.
I also have collections of Peter Blake’s record sleeve art. Here prices have not escalated as they have for the artists already mentioned. It is really only original vinyl copies of Blake’s & Jann Haworth’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album and, possibly, the vinyl release of Oasis’s Stop the Clocks collection that have increased in value. Nor have records with cover art by Damien Hirst increased dramatically in value in recent years. My collection of Klaus Voormann’s record sleeve art is, at best, worth what I originally paid for each item. Only a copy of The Beatles’ Revolver signed by Klaus has increased in value.
I was lucky to have started collecting record sleeve art before prices went over the top. I am constantly amazed by the sums some collector are prepared to pay for some record covers. Several sleeves with Banksy’s art have sold recently on Ebay for over £2,000! And these were released in editions of 1000 copies. Even some CDs with Banksy’s art have started to increase in value although only a few were issued in limited quantities.
The sport now, is to guess which artist who also lends his art to record sleeves, will be next to tempt collectors.