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.
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.