A Rare Addition to My Banksy Collection.

Fairytales usually start “once upon a time …”, so that’s probably how I’ll start this post. Once upon a time I got hold of a printers’ proof of Dirty Funker’s Let’s Get Dirty cover. As you all know, there are two versions of this cover — one with no artist or title on the cover, only the two Kate Moss portraits, the second, more common, cover has a “Dymo” band over Kate’s eyes on the front with the title and over her mouth on the rear cover.

The printers’ proof:

Printers proof of the Let’s Get Dirty cover.

No one know how many printers’ proofs are made. Probably only a handful. I’ve only ever seen one other Let’s Get Dirty proof before.

Last month, I saw an Ebay item that I couldn’t resist. A seller in Stockholm, literally just down the road from where I live (well. actually a bus ride or eight underground stops away) had advertised the original stampers for the Let’s Get Dirty single and I made a cheeky offer that (after a wee haggle) was almost instantly accepted! They came with documentation on their provenance, so I guess they’re genuine.

I think this combination of the printers’ proof cover art together with the original stampers and both pressings of the record must be pretty rare. They make a great addition to my collection. So, thanks Dan for selling me the stampers.

Collecting Record Cover Art — All or Nothing?

As Dave Haslam points out in his little book A Life in Thirty-five Boxes (subtitled How I Survived Selling my Record Collection), there are basically two classes of collector; the completist and the dilettante. The former strives to collect everything in his or her field of interest while the dilettante picks and chooses among items. A stamp collector might concentrate on collecting stamps with sports figures or butterflies and be happy with the most famous footballers or the prettiest butterflies. But being a completist in either of these fields would be nigh on impossible. The same, of course, applies to collectors of record cover art. The dilettante can pick and choose which record covers to collect. The completist wants every cover in a particular field of collecting.

My record collection started out as a library of popular music from the late fifties to today and grew to more than 5,000 records and CDs before I started to concentrate more on record cover design. The first designer I discovered and decided to collect was the late Vaughan Oliver and I collected a wonderful collection of his work before selling the majority of my collection almost ten years ago. I have now only one of the covers by his v23 design group — Pieter Nooten’s Sleeps With the Fishes, which is still one of my all-time favourite designs (by Chris Bigg).

When I sold the bulk of my collection, I kept my Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Klaus Voormann and Damien Hirst covers. These artists have only produced relatively limited numbers of covers; Andy Warhol produced about 65 covers during his lifetime, though many more have used his art since. There are only about thirty covers designed by Peter Blake and around eighty by Klaus Voorman and currently about seventy by Damien Hirst. And the artist I started collecting most recently is David Shrigley. Shrigley has designed a frisbee with the message “I collect records — I am obsessed by them”. Shrigley is a record collector and sometime DJ but his art seems seldom influenced by music. However, he has used his qirky writings on several record, cassette and CD covers. Thus far, he is responsible for about seventy covers, many very limited editions produced to accompany exhibitions of his art.

Then there’s Banksy. I started collecting Banksy’s record cover art around 2005 and collected almost fifty covers quite quickly. This is where I recognised that I am a completist. I wanted to include every cover in my collection.

There were several temporary “highs” when I thought I had completed a collection of one of my artist’s production only to find myself disappointed when someone found a cover that I had missed. I am responsible for reporting three previously unrecognised Andy Warhol covers and I can say I have a “pretty complete” collection of Warhol covers — note: not complete, but “pretty complete”. The same applies to my David Shrigley, Peter Blake and Damien Hirst collections and my Klaus Voormann collection (though I do lack two Voormann covers, but I know what they are.)

However, I am now beginning to realise that my collection of Banksy covers will never be complete as new discoveries are being made almost daily and my initial list of around fifty covers has now grown to almost one hundred and fifty, and still more covers are being recognised. Amazingly, many of these new “discoveries” were produced prior to 2010, when I thought I had found ALL of Banksy’s covers.

Banksy’s art is now so attractive to collectors and his early record covers, particularly his vinyl covers, have become prohibitively expensive. Most of the new “discoveries” are on CDs produced by relatively obscure bands, commonly punk or hiphop, in very limited numbers and are becoming impossible to find at reasonably prices as collectors compete for each available copy. There are a few nice vinyl covers, too and some more unscrupulous people are producing limíted edition vinyl 12-inchers with Banksy art covers simply to lure collectors. There are three recent releases in this category; two by a band called Boys in Blue — one using Banksy’s Rude Copper and one using his Strawberry Donut images, and another by Apes on Control that uses his Choose Your Weapon design. Unfortunately, I was taken in by the first Boys in Blue scam but have resisted the the others.

Street Art on Record Sleeves — A Good Investment.

My collection of record sleeves with art by the artist klnown as Banksy needs no instroduction here.

There are two covers that Banksy handsprayed. The first was for John Stapleton’s Blowpop Records in 1999. Banksy sprayed 100 coovers for a promotional 12″ single by the Capoeira Twins.

And the second was for Röyksopp’s debut album Melody A.M. in 2002.

The Capoeira Twins 12″ costs around GBP 5,000 – 6,000 while the Melody A.M. double LP goes for araound GBP 8,000 – 10,000. Both are limited editions of 100 copies (only the Melody A.M. covers are numbered.)

Robert del Naja (a k a 3D) is closely related to Banksy — and a major early influence. Del Naja started as a streeet artist in Bristol in the early eighties. He stopped after being arrested one time too many and concentrated on music, though he still produces art both as paintings and limited edition prints that command high prices. He also designs record covers for his band Massive Attack and for other groups. His limited editon record covers for Massive Attack have increased in value. I have four covers by Del Naja/3D.

Prices of these covers have sky rocketed recently. The limited edtion 12″ Eps Splitting the Atom and Atlas Air can cost upwards of GBP 300.

I have tried not to wander off and collect other street artists covers, but somehow some manage to creep into my collection. The latest is by the anonymous Swedish street artist Hellström, who handsprayed a cover for Håkan Hellström’s 2018 Illusioner album.

Hellströms limited edition prints cost around SEK 40,000 – 60,000 (aprox €4,000 – 6,000) and are highly collectible. He made the cover to the Illusioner LP in an edition of 40 (mine is No. 36), considerably fewer than one of his print editions.

One of the most expensive street art record covers is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s cover for Rammelzee vs. K-Rob Beat Bop 12″ single originally released in 1983 (500 copies) and reissued several times. An original copy might sell for around USD 10,000. Even some reissues can be quite expensive. However, even the price of an original is far less than a Basquiat limited edition print.

Mr Brainwash designed the cover for Madonna’s 2009 Celebration four LP compilation and copies now can cost USD 1,000!

Shepard Fairey has designed several record covers, both as art works that do not contain records and as bona fide record sleeves. He knows his history of record cover design and produced a limited edition series of covers that I felt I had to reproduce for my collection.

This cover design harks back to Alex Steinweiss’ first picture cover ffor the Smash Hits by Rodgers and Hart 78 rpm album from 1940. As I have that album, I had yo make a reproduction of the Shepard Fairey cover. Once again, a Shepard Fairey record cover will cost far less that one of his limited edition prints.

These are the street artists I have in my collection. I hope that each will continue to increase in value.

It seems that record covers by estsablished “fine” artists are also considerably cheaper (or perhaps that should be “considerably less expensive”) that the artists’ limited edition prints. A current example is David Shrigley, a vinyl-lover and part-time DJ, who has produced many record sleeves in very limited editions. These are now quite expensive, but nowhere near the cost of his limited edition prints. Early covers by Andy Warhol are expensive — perhaps up to USD 2,000 – 3,000, while his limited edition prints cost one hundred times the cost of his record covers.

Anniversary Reissues — an Expensive Experience.

There’s obviously a new generation of music fans who are buying vinyl records and weren’t around when some historic albums were origianllly released. And a there’s a large group of old fogies like me who were around but have worn out their original copies (or, again, like me, sold much of their original vinyl) and record companies have not beeb slow in realising these markets and producing anniversary reissues of old favourites — and in many cases reissuing albums that weren’t greatly appreciated when originally released but have become cult items. Many of the reissues are released on variously coloured vinyl, so collectors might have to buy several clopies.

I don’t know when the anniversary reissues forst arrrived. I suppose you could say it was when CDs arrived in the early eighties and vinyl albums were tranferred to the digital format. I remember the posters advertising the release of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band CD in 1987 used the “It was 20 years ago today” byeline. Could that have been one of the first “anniversary” reissues?

But 25th, 40th, 45th, 50th anniversary issues now appear with shocking regularity and are often in the form of expanded editions in box sets. Viz. The Velvet Underground & Nico‘s 45th anniversary 6CD box (one of th efirst I fell for) and the 2017 Sgt. Pepper release on single LP, double LP and four CD box set (I fell for these as well.) Lavish boxed sets of each of the Led Zeppelin albums (which tempted me, but I was strong) and many others.

But there’s a newer phenomenon; 10th and 15th anniversary reissues. I’ve just fallen for the 15th anniversary reissues of Malcolm Middleton’s A Brighter Beat album with its David Shrigley covers. I already have the origianal both on vinyl and CD (two different covers) and signed up for the promised 15th anniversary issues when they were announced in the autumn of 2021. Release was, however delayed until May. The “standard” reissue was a limited edition of 1000 copies on clear vinyl and then there is a “Dinked” edition of 500 copies on silver vinyl with a differend Shrigley cover (the same design as was used on the original CD.)

And now I’ve just “invested” in a 20th anniversary reissue of The Promise’s Believer LP, originally pressed on clear vinyl (100 copies) or red vinyl (900 copies) and now repressed on purple vinyl (200 copies). This 2002 album featured a very early reworking of Banksy’s I Fought the Law artwork on its cover and has become a collector’s item because of its cover.

Many, if not the majority, of these anniversary reissues are limited editions and have become collectible in their own right. I realise that it is great that out of print albums are being rereleased so that a new group of listeners can hear them on pristine vinyl, but I can’t decide if it is just a marketing jippo tat has sucked me in.

Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky. An exhibition in New York.

I have been involved in a series of unauthorised Banksy retrospective exhibitions over the past five years. This started in 2016 when the Italian cultural foundation Associazone Metamorfosi planned a major retrospective exhibition of the work of the artist known as Banksy to be held at the presigious Palazzo Cipolla on Rome’s Via del Corso between 24th May and 4th September 2016. John Brandler, a gallery owner who specialises in street art, knew of my collection of record and CD covers with cover art by Banksy and recommended to the curators Stefano Antonelli, Francesca Mezzano and Acoris Andipa including mey records and CDs in the exhibition. The exhibition, called War, Capitalism & Liberty, was divided into sections illustrating these three themes.

Then in 2019 the Fondazione Metamorfosi contacted me again asking to borrow my Banksy collection for a new exhibition to be called Il Secundo Principio di un artista chiamato Banksy [The Second Principle of the artist known as Banksy]. The exhibition was held between 23 November and 29 March 2020. An exhibition catalogue was produced for this show.

Metamorfosi decided to that the exhibiiton should move to a series of exhibition halls in Italy and Switzerland, first to Ferrara, then to Parma and later to Basel and Lugarno. The title of the exhibition changed to Un artista chiamato Banksy for the Ferrara show.

The following exhibitions in Parma, Basel and Lugano were all titled Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky and used the same catalogue design.

These exhibitions included paintings, prints, books, posters, sculpture and, of course record and CD covers illustrating all aspects of Banksy’s art, with the exception of paintings on walls. The curators have been careful to point out that Banksy has not been involved in these unauthorised exhibitions and that no works from buildings are included as ownership of such works is unclear.

I had the priviledge to attend the openings of the War, Capitalism & Liberty and the Il secundo principio di artissta chiamato Banksy exhibiitons. The Covid pandemic prevented me visiting the Ferrara, Parma, Lugano and Basel exhibitions.

After Lugano, curators Stefano Antonelli and Gianluca Marziani, together with Fondazione MetaMorfosi transferred the exhibtion to New York, in the former International Center of Photography building at 250 Bowery. This was still called Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky and a new catalogue was produced for the show.

The catalogue from the Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky exhibition, 2022.

The New York exhibition opened on 28th May and will run until 31st December 2022. It was a thrill for me to be invited to the opening and to meet the curators, who had published a book of Banksy’s art in Italian in 2021 and could present an English language version at the opening of the New York show.

Twenty-nine of my record covers and 16 CDs are on show at the exhibition.

The exhibition proivides a great overview of Banksy’s art and includes is most famous images including his Rage: Flower Thrower, Girl with Balloon , Turf War and I Fought the Law, among many others.

An Authoritative Book on Banksy’s Art.

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.

The catalogue from the Banksy: Building Castles in the Sky exhibition, 2022.

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.

Banksy’s Cover Art for a Massive Attack Album That Was Never Used.

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 New Look at Record Cover Art – Four Artists’ Approach — Laurie Cinotto, Morgan Howell, Mark Vessey, and Mark Wade.

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!

The “Vinylize!” book cover.

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.

Mark Vessey’s bundle of David Bowie album covers

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.

Banksy in Mexico – and a Rare Cassette.

The artist known as Banksy’s art has always had a political edge. He is well-known for his support of Palestine and his depiction of the U.K. parliament populated by monkeys. Less well-known is his involvement with the Zapatista movement in Mexico. The Zapatistas are a revolutionary group of indigenous people living in remote areas of the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico on the Guatemalan border. In 1999 a football team from Bristol called the Easton Cowboys visited them and played several matches on mountainous football pitches, sometimes normally cattle-grazing pasture, complete with cowpats. The story is told in a 2012 book called Freedom Through Football – The Story of the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls, by Will Simpson and Malcolm McMahon.

The Freedom Through Football book.

Team members realised that the Zapatistas needed aid in the form of access to clean water and other basic necessities and decided to offer aid. Finance was always going to be a problem and the Cowboys organised a club night and one of the Cowboys, Tom Mahoney, contacted Banksy and asked for help with décor. Apparently, Banksy has already been involved with the Cowboys, having been to some training sessions in 1996-7. Banksy donated a canvas of a Zapatista footballer doing a flying kick. The painting was reproduced on T-shirts. The club night raised £1400 and the Cowboys decided offer the painting as the prize in a raffle to raise more money with tickets costing £1 each! They decided to make it a “spot the ball” competition with punters able to buy as many tickets as they wanted and guessing where the Zapatist’s ball would be on the painting with a sticker. However, not all the Cowboys were happy with the raffle idea, thinking that Banksy was getting recognition and that selling the painting might bring in more money. But the raffle went ahead anyway and brought in just £300. The winner, “a girl from Knowle”, eventually sold the painting for £20,000.

Banksy joined the Easton Cowboys on their second tour of Chiapas in 2001 and painted several murals there.

One of these, a painting of a Zapatista – perhaps of Emiliano Zapata, who led the Mexican revolution of 1910-1920 – later appeared on the cover of a cassette of revolutionary songs called Canciones electorales. The cassette was produced in very limited numbers in three colours, white, yellow and red.

The cassette artwork.
The red version of the cassette (photo Nick Suszinski)

I’m happy to have found this one with Nick’s help. Thank you! I don’t think I will chase the red or yellow cassettes. After all, there has to be some limit to my collecting.

Nils Landgren’s Funk Unit’s Album Funk Is My Religion and a Borrowed Warhol image.

Readers may remember my latest artistic effort to recreate the four covers for a projected Billie Holiday album designed by Andy Warhol some toime in the 1950s. Well, Swedish trombonist and band leader Nils Landgren had obiously seen Warhol’ designs as he “borrowed” Warhol’s trombone player from one of the covers.

Here’s my version of the relevant Volume 3 cover:

Nils Landgrens’ latest album

Warhol’s trombone player with added colour.

There is no credit to designer of the Funk is My Religion cover but there is a note saying “inspired by Andy Warhol. I wonder how Landgren found this image. Still it’s fun that Warhol’s designs are still turning up on record covers.

Record sleeve art by artists I collect