I used to be a music nerd with a large collection of all sorts of recorded music, though mainly a vinyl freak. I started out in the sixties, got swept away by psychedelia and into music posters which I continued to collect up until 2013, when space shortage meant I had to sell the major part of my collection. I had already started collecting record cover art and had an complete collection of art by Vaughan Oliver (4AD) and Neville Brody (Fetish Records), which unfortunately had to go. I had all Peter Blake's record covers as well as the nucleus of a representative Andy Warhol collection. In addition I had an almost complete collection of covers by Banksy, Klaus Voormann and Damien Hirst so I decided to continue to collect covers by these five artists.
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.
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.
In addition the artists gave me a copy of the exhibition catalogue, which they kindly dedicated.
The cover of the exhibition catalogue.
The dedication on the fly leaf.
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.
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.
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.
1967 copy of “Sgt. Pepper” signed by Jann Haworth
The four CDs from the 50th anniversary box set.
The Japanese stage set.
The signed “Pepper” insert.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 Madrigal “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish“, but not the RATFAB “Det brinner en eld/Mörka ögon” single that wasn’t identified until after the exhibition.
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.
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.
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.
Another exhibition screen showing the tree “We Love You… So Love Us” CDs, “Keep It Real” promo and One od Dirty Funker’s “Future” covers.
One of the exhibition screens in preparation showing the two versions of Dirty Funker’s “Let’s Get Dirty (My Sharona)” single, the Banksy interview 12″ and Queen & Cuntry’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” bootleg.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!) OlleGranath 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While collecting Andy Warhol‘s record cover art, I became aware of Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s art and have admired his record covers, but my interest in them has stayed there. I discovered them too late to be able to afford collecting them. I recently discovered Robert del Naja’s (A.k.a 3D’s) record cover art. He has provided several beautiful sleeves for The Vinyl Factory for a couple of Massive Attack‘s 12″ EPs and a collaboration with Jean Michel Jarre and, as I have written about in a previous post, the book “3D–The Art of Massive Attack“. I recently discovered that del Naja had also provided the cover art for U.N.K.L.E.‘s “War Stories” album from 2007 and that there is a limited edition four album set with a book.
The front cover of the “War Stories” box set.
The rear cover of the “War Stories” box set.
Del Naja had also provided cover art for some Mo Wax albums, two of which I used to own–The “Headz2A” and “Headz2B” compilations.
3D’s cover art for the “Headz2A” and “Headz2B” 4 LP box sets.
Unfortunately, these two box sets went when I sold the bulk of my record collection.
Robert del Naja was born in Bristol, U.K., on 21st January 1965 (though I’ve seen sources that say he was born in 1966). He is red/green colour blind, which obviously affects how he sees the colours of his artworks. He was interested in music and was impressed in the late seventies by the cover art of records on the Crass label and by covers on releases by The Clash–some of which included stencils allowing the owner to decorate t-shirts or even their bedroom walls. He became interested in street art after seeing examples of SAMO‘s (Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s) work in New York magazines and was impressed by pop art of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.
Del Naja‘s first experiences of graffiti came from music videos (The Clash—“Radio Clash”, Malcolm McLaren—“Buffalo Gals”, and some early hip-hop videos).
He started stencilling street art in Bristol in 1982 and was further motivated by the 1983 film “Wild Style” that introduced New York graffiti artist Futura 2000. And an impressive number of street artists appeared in Bristol in the nineteen eighties, including 3D, Inkie, Ian Dark & Z Boys, Nick Walker and, towards the end of the decade, Banksy. At the same time del Naja began rapping together with Claude Williams at Bristol’s Barton Hill Youth Centre a.k.a The Dug Out (or Dugout). In about 1983 a loose group called the Wild Bunch formed that included Robert del Naja, Grant Marshall, Nellee Hooper, Claude Williams (aka Willy Wee), Milo Johnson (DJ Milo), Andrew Vowles and part-time member Tricky. The group toured widely and towards the end of the eighties DJ Milo left, preferring to remain in Japan after the group had toured there and the band disintegrated with del Naja, Williams and Vowles leaving to form Massive Attack.
Robert del Naja, or more correctly, 3D has continued to develop his design and graphic output providing cover art for many records and CDs not only by Massive Attack but even for U.N.K.L.E. and has produced diverse prints, though he prefers to give them away rther than sell them.
The magazine VNA (Very Nearly Almost) No. 26 had an article on 3D and produced a special limited edition of the issue. Both editions had covers by 3D.
The standard edition of VNA magazine No. 26.
The limited edition of VNA magazine No. 26. No. 1/40.
I enjoy visiting the A & D Gallery in Chiltern Street, London, on my regular visits to spend time with my aged mother. I enjoyed the banter with my friends, the late Daniel Brant and Helen Clarkson (who now runs the gallery). I learnt a whole lot about pop art, and in particular about Andy Warhol’s art, from these experts. Daniel had sold a couple of signed copies of the Rolling Stones’ “Love You Live” album in previous years and I had told him hat I would be interested in a copy should he ever find another. Three or four years ago he mailed me that he had included copies of “Sticky Fingers” and “Love You Live” in an auction and I was lucky to be able to by them.
Late in 2018, I met John Peter Nilsson, from Moderna Museet, in Stockholm during the Warhol 1968 exhibition at the museum in Stockholm. I pointed out that one of the eight Andy Warhol designed record covers on display (by The East Village Other) was NOT designed or illustrated by Warhol. And I mentioned that I had a complete set of Warhol covers. John Peter suggested that, when the exhibition moves to Moderna in Malmö in March 2019, so we agreed on my lending records to the exhibition.
Just prior to collecting the records I came across an autographed copy of Paul Anka’s 1976 album “The Painter” signed by both Andy Warhol and Paul Anka. Apparently, Warhol signed the cover outside The Factory in December 1986, just two moths before he died, and Paul Anka signed it later.
Most recently I found a copy of Billy Squier’s “Emotions in Motion” album signed by Andy Warhol. Unusually, this is an Italian pressing. The provenance is from a gallery in Rome that bought the album from Anita Pallenberg.
Apparently, this was signed in for Anita at The Factory in 1985. I’m a little suspicious, however.The signature soesn’t look 100% and I wonder how Anita Pallenberg happened to have her Italian copy of the album with her in New York… Perhaps I’m being too suspicious, though.
But the signed album any Warhol collector really wants is, of course, a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico!
In a previous post I reported on British artist Peter Liversidge’s record cover art. Liversidge’s art is quite fascinating. in 2013 he arranged for children in an east London school to suggest and mount a protest on any subject–that they themselves, independently of adult suggestions–wanted to protest about. They made placards and chants to go with their protest and in 2015 staged it at Lonson’s Whitechapel Gallery. Otherwise Liversidge is known for his concept art, producing proposals for galleries to carry out. In his recent exhibition at Bonniers konsthall in Stockholm, entitled “Working Title II” he had produced 45 “Proposals”, each neatly typed on a separate A4 sheet of paper and framed on one wall of the exhibition space.
Bonniers konsthall had also published the proposals in a book:
In addition the gallery had produced Liversidge’s book “Notes on Protesting” describing his projects.
Another aspect of Liversidge’s art is his passion for collecting objects that resemble faces. One room in the gallery was devoted to this aspect of his art with carpets, rocks and masks.
Peter is a music lover (as I have found many artists to be) and friends with members of various bands for whom he has provided cover art. I had managed to find four LPs with Liversidge designs:
– Low–Ones and Sixes (2015)
– The High Plains–Cinderland (2017)
– Allred & Broderik –Find the Ways (2017)
– Low– Double Negative (2018)
On the Liversidge’s exhibitions penultimate day (February 16th, 2019), the artist attended the galley to do a book signing and I went along with my records to try to get them signed, too.
Peter was surprised (and apparently quote pleased) to see his record covers in these surroundings and was very happy to sign them. But he didn’t want to sign the front covers, preferring either to sign the inner sleeves or the backs. However, I managed to persuade him to sign the front of Low’s “Double Negative” cover–and he agreed it looked great that way.
Low’s “Double Negative” cover and inner sleeve signed by Peter Liversidge.
He also signed the other three covers:
Peter told be a couple of stories about how the album art evolved. Theinner spread of the “Ones and Sixes” album has pictures of an owl taken in British Columbia. Originally, a bald eagle was suggested as the bird to be shown, but as this is the U.S.’s national bird the suggestion was shelved and the owl substituted. On Low’s other album “Double Negative” Peter had suggested using a different mask on the cover:
Peter also told me about a record cover he had designed that I had not managed to find. This was Wires Under Tension’s 2012 album “Replicant”.
Before leaving I managed to get Peter to pose for a photo with one of his masks–and the cover of “Double Negative”.