Street art has become mainstream. Street artists are increasingly in demand as commercial artists and recording artists are turning to these readily identifiable painters for cover art for their recordings. In America, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and designed record covers in the eighties, and Shepard Fairey, Robert del Naja (aka 3D) and Banksy (the latter two in the UK) produced covers mainly from the nineties onwards.
Covers by Basquiat and Fairey‘s art covers are very collectible and many are currently very expensive as they were produced in limited editions. Vinyl covers with Banksy designs are also rare and command high prices. I was lucky enough to start collecting Banksy’s record cover art relatively early and have managed to collect what I consider to be a complete collection of his record cover art. Thierry Guetta–better known as Mr. Brainwash–is a more recent street artist to design record sleeves. So far I have only been able to identify three such covers; all for Madonna. He designed the cover for her 2009 compilation “Celebration” which was released on vinyl as a 4 LP set in a gatefold cover.
Record Label Side 1.
Record Label Side 2.
Record Label Side 3.
Record Label Side 4.
Record Label Side 5.
Record Label Side 6.
Record Label Side 7.
Record Label Side 8.
There is also a 12″ EP of “Celebration” remixes.
Then there are a variety of CD releases. The standard double CD uses the same Mr. Brainwash image as the LP set, but there is a slightly different (more anemic) variation also.
And the 12″ picture disc and CD singles hare the same artwork:
A couple of other records turned up when I searched http://www.discogs.com for other cover art by Mr. Brainwash and I fell for one that I thought probably was by him–Travis Barker‘s “Give the Drummer Some“:
Travis Barker’s “Give the Drummer Some” LP cover front.
Travis Barker’s “Give the Drummer Some” LP cover rear.
Unfortunately, this cover is NOT by Mr. Brainwash but is by Pushead (aka Brian Schroeder, who, according to Wikipedia, is a graphic designer and record label owner.) More of his designs may be seen here. Skulls seem to be his speciality!
Robert del Naja, a.k.a 3D, is a musician, artist and composer probably best known as being a founder member of the trip hop group Massive Attack. He has also other musical projects. del Naja was born in Bristol in 1965 and has been credited as the the city’s first graffiti artist and Banksy has named him as a major influence–it can be noted that suggestions have been made that del Naja IS Banksy! A real fact about him is that he is colour blind. Something that caused him problems in his early works–painting a self-portrait with green hair and brown Christmas trees.
I really liked the deceptively simple cover art for Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” album, with its stag beetle image. Otherwise I had not paid particular attention to the group’s cover art. I was completely unaware that del Naja had a separate career as a record cover artist. He admits to have been designing covers for Mo’ Wax records for eight years–I once owned the 1994 Mo Wax vinyl samplers “Headz 1” and “Headz 2” with cover paintings by del Naja, though I then had no idea who he was.
Mo Wax 1996 compilation Headz 2A, with cover art by Robert del Naja.
Mo Wax 1996 compilation Headz 2, with cover art by Robert del Naja.
Just recently, The Vinyl Factory published “3D & the Art of Massive Attack” by Robert del Naja and Sean Bidder–a 400 page book of Robert del Naja’s art. There are two versions, a popular edition selling for £50 or a limited edition of 350 signed copies selling for £350. I have the popular edition, which came sealed in cellophane with the Vinyl Factory sticker with bar cove on the outside. The book only contains pictures of del Naja’s artworks with no text apart from a three page interview in a separate 12-page booklet included in the package. Reviews of the book state that Banksy has written the book’s introduction, but I couldn’t find it in my copy–perhaps that’s only included in the limited edition…
I was fascinated to find out that Robert del Naja has cooperated with photographer Nick Knight to produce record cover art. The “Mezzanine” cover is one example.
Del Naja again approached Nick Knight for the cover photo for Massive Attack’s “best of” compilation “Collected”.
Nick Knight’s most famous cover photographs are probably David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover, Björk’s 1997 “Homogenic” or Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s “The Boatman’s Call” covers, but he has also photographed Miguel Bosé (see a previous recordart post for another Miguel Bosé album) for the cover of his 1987 album “XXX” among many others.
I was disappointed with the book at first, but it lead me to start looking for more examples of Robert del Naja’s record covers and that has proved to be an interesting journey. I will have to try to contain my interest and NOT start collecting his covers.