Collaboration between artists and musicians in matter of album cover design has always been an interesting artistic territory that produced a real cult for these images production. Everybody remembers the iconic “peel slowly and see” design for the debut album of The Velvet Underground (The Velvet Underground & Nico) signed by Andy Warhol in 1967. Probably the most famous example of a successful collaboration between band and artist for a cover became at the same time a cult icon of rock music and an art piece now often seen on display in museum collections.
Far from being history of the past the artistic collaboration to produce these art pieces is recently seeing resurgence. As Andrew Heeps, managing director of Art Vinyl observes, with the increase of vinyl record sales in the last nine years “this traditional music format is seriously having a renaissance”. More than just another form of vintage cult the interest in vinyl records has increased remarkably attracting more attention in collecting and displaying them even as purely visual art objects by both museums institutions and the public, like recent events and exhibitions demonstrate; a good example, for instance is the show that travelled in the US from 2010 to 2012 entitled “The Record: contemporary art and vinyl”.
In the name of this consolidated practice, Art Vinyl (and Memory Box UK, the company behind Art Vinyl) organizes once a year the Best Art Vinyl Award which has been celebrating record covers design over the past 8 years. The competition shortlists 50 covers and the public votes the winners. The nominations are this year exhibited until the end of January at Malmaison hotels in Birmingham, London and Oxford and at SEMM music store & more in Bologna, Italy.
Andrew Heeps founder of the award is a supporter of the “play and display” philosophy and sees the potential that this media has gained in contrast with the digital production of music. “Over a quarter of vinyl records are now sold as wall art, adding visual appeal to the high quality listening experience”. Art Vinyl invented the appropriate support or record frame to get the most out of the aesthetic qualities of vinyl covers, an easy-to-open box frame to display the vinyl on the wall which allows access to the record at any time.
The winners of the 2013 edition of the award which have just been announced last week on the 3rd of January, see the cover of White Lies’s album “Big TV” signed by New York based artist Michael Kagan deserving of first place with the painting “Pilot 2” (oil on canvas) as cover subject. At Second and third place we find the album ”Repent Replenish Repeat” by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip with artwork by paper artist Paul Jackson and Bonobo’s album “North Borders” designed by graphic designer and art director Leif Podhajsky.
While the second and third prize covers were specifically commissioned and designed for the music albums, the first one signed by Kagan was picked by the band as the icon for their last effort from the painting series realized by the American artist in 2010 inspired by “Project Mercury” and portraying astronauts. Surprisingly both the band and the artist felt the connection with each other’s Work. Kagan said “I could see how the painting had really become a symbol of the band and the new album. There is a nice cohesiveness between all of the images used and the songs and feel of the album.”
As Heeps have noticed the appreciation of this artist’s work by the musicians and public might highlights a return to a hand-crafted approach to this form of art in line with the return to the vinyl format itself.
Is the vinyl record’s powerful combination of visual art and music the secret of its recent success?