There is a cultural organisation in Italy called Azzociatione Metamorfosi that arranges educational art exhibitions ranging from Michaelangelo to Caravaggio and most recently the artist known as Banksy. Metamorfosi have engaged art experts Stefano Antonelli, Gianluca Marziani and the British gallerist Acoris Andipa to curate an unauthorised exhibition of the Banksy’s art currently called Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky. The organisers are careful to point out that the exhibition does not involve Banksy himself nor does it include works removed from buildings or public spaces.
The exhibition was first shown at the Palazzo Cipolla in Rome in 2016 when it was called War, Capitalism and Liberty. The current exhibition opened in Genoa in November 2019 and was called The Second Principle of Banksy. It moved to several Italian cities during 2020 and thereafter to Basel and finally to Lugarno in Switzerland metamorphosing into its present form as Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky. The exhibition opened at the former Institute of Photography, 250 Bowery, New York, on May 28th 2022 and will run until the end of the year.
In 2021 Antonelli and Marziani published their book Banksy in Italian and published it in English in May 2022 to coincide with the opening of the New York exhibition. The book, Simply entitled Banksy is published by Rizzoli/Elektra (ISBN 978-0-8478-7276-3).
It is, as far as I know, the first authoratative and critical analysis of Banksy’s art produced by independant art experts. It runs to 240 pages and is profusely illustrated in colour. All the best-loved Banksy images are, of course, included along with many less well-known ones. There’s Girl With Balloon, Rage: Flower Thrower, Monkey Parliament all arranged along a timeline so the reader can follow the artist’s progression. It’s reasonaby priced at £29.95 / $40.
There’s a wonderful (unauthorised) Banksy retrospective in New York at the moment. It’s called Banksy — Building Castles in the Sky and includes paintings, prints, posters, a sculpture, books and a selection of record and CD covers showing the many facets of Banksy’s art. It’s at 250 Bowery, on the Lower East Side, until December 31st 2022.
But there is one piece in particular that I’ve never seen before. It’s an early painting on board that was intended to be used as the cover art for a Massive Attack album (for Mezzanine I wonder?) However, it was never used.
This piece, 71 x 74 cms is dated 1998-1999 and is one of the first works one sees when entering the exhibition. It portrays Robert del Naja as a DJ in front of a circular saw. The sky background — reminicent of Yoko Ono’s cover for John Lennon’s Imagine album or the cloud on the cover of the Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album — is painted while Del Naja is stencilled onto the background.
The star that Del Naja seems to be staring at recurs on Banksy’s Zapatista footballer from 2001.
Thus, the Cloud DJ image should be added to a discography of Banksy art on record, CD or cassette.
A record cover is a recod cover. Or is it? I’ve been intrigued by how the standard record cover can be enhanced, defaced, reproduced or simply disappear in a painting.
As a student in the sixties I had record covers and posters on my wall. Hapshash & The Coloured Coat’s album Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids with the poster beside it and the Who’s The Who Sell Out with the poster that came with the very first pressings of the album (and which I lost somewhere along the line. I’ve been fascinated by record cover art ever since. And have collected record cover art sin ce the eighties — specialising in the work of the late, great Vaughan Oliver, Neville Brody, Alex Steinweiss and Andy Warhol. I’ve had to part with my collections of the first three of these byut have concentrated on Warhol, Peter Blake, Banksy, Klaus Voormann, David Shrigley and a few others.
In recent years I’ve been notiicing some new trends in record cover collecting. “Fine” artists like Mike and Doug Starn use montages of old LP covers as the “canvas” on which they paint their large-scale murals. Other artists take a record cover and embelish it as done by my friend Romain Beltrame.
In 2017 Bert Dijkstra (an art director) and Dick Van Dijk (owner of Concerto record store in Amsterdam) put togther an exhibiton of well-known record covers that they asked contemporary artists to re-imagine. The show featured over fifty covers re-invented by mainly Dutch graphic artists which were auctioned off for charity after the show. They also published a book called, naturally, Vinylize!
Of course I’ve made a few reproductions of record covers myself. I have made covers of unreleased or rare Andy Warhol designs including all five colour variations of his and Billy Klüver’s Giant Size $1.57 Each covers, as well as the unreleased Progressive Piano LP and seven-inch EP, and my most recent creations are the four variations of Warhol’s designs for an unreleased Billie Holiday album entitled Volume 3.
The first of the artists that I found who recreate vinyl records was Morgan Howell, a british painter who sspecialises in painting supersized seven-inch singles. Howell (aka @supersizeart) is based in St Albans, just outside London. His works have featured in gallery exhibitions and are for sale from his website. His singles are faithfully reproduced with their company paper sleeves showing signs of wear with creases and tears.
The next artist I call Mark 1. He’s Mark Wade, a British painter living in Windsor, who has specialized in recreating album covers, hand painting enlarged versions that measure 24 x 24 inches (61 x 61 cms). He uses acrylic paint on canvas and folds the canvas to be able to paint the record’s spine. His choice of which covers to paint seem quite eclectic. He has done several Blue Note covers, as well as soundtracks and rock and pop covers. His attention to detail is amazing always finishing the artwork to make the cover look lovingly used. Wade accepts commissions for covers. Here are two pictures from his @markwadeart Instagram flow.
The artist I call Mark 2 is photographer Mark Vessey, who has made a name photographing piles of records, books and magazines to show their spines. He has produced limited editions of photos of piles of soundtrack albums and albums by Prince, David Bowie, among others. Buyers of his photographs can choose what size their budget allows, from 80 x 80 cm to 150 x 150 cms in limited editions. The 80 x 80 cm edition is limited to 50 copies, while the larger prints are much more limited – the 150 x 150 cm edition comprises only 2 copies.
The fourth artist I’m celebrating is record collector extraordinaire, and cat lover, Laurie Cinotto (@teeny_tiny_vinyl), the only American in this trio, lives in Tacoma, Waashington, and, as far as I can see, the only amateur. She has recreated her music room in miniature, complete with hundreds (possibly thousands) of miniature record covers lovingly made. Each cover is two inches square and has its own plastic protective sleeve. She even reproduces the records on card to complete the reproduction. She has also made gatefold albums and box sets of records she loves. Here are a couple of pictures from her Instagram feed
As a maker of reproductions of record covers I am in awe of these people and especially the three who are able to make a career of their reproductions. Laurie Cimino deserves all respect för her dedication and obsessiveness to recreate her own miniature music would. I bet any music lover would like a doll’s house with Laurie’s record collection.
Note. All pictures are copyright of their respective owners.