It has been proven time and again that some of the most interesting and creative collaborations are produced by art and music. For this week's list, in no particular order, we're putting the spotlight on five albums whose cover art were specially designed by well-known artists!
Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground & Nico’s eponymous album (1967)
Even without seeing his name on it, one look at the album cover and you’d immediately know that it was designed by iconic pop artist Andy Warhol. It’s actually no surprise that Warhol would be doing this for the band’s debut album – after all, he managed The Velvet Underground, which was also the house band at his Factory. Nico, of course, was an artist and a Warhol Superstar.
Robert Rauschenberg, Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues” (1983)
“Speaking in Tongues” had two designs for the cover art: first, the one designed by the band’s founding member and frontman David Byrne for the general release, and second, the limited edition LP version designed by Robert Rauschenberg. As the story goes, Byrne approached the artist with the proposal to design an LP after seeing his black and white collages at Leo Castelli’s gallery. The Grammy award-winning package design was described by Byrne, thus:
“His package consisted of a conceptual collage piece in which the color separation layers — the cyan, magenta and yellow images that combined to make one full-color image — were, well, deconstructed. Only by rotating the LP and the separate plastic disc could one see — and then only intermittently — the three-color images included in the collage. It was a transparent explication of how the three-color process works, yet in this case, one could never see all the full-color images at the same time, as Bob had perversely scrambled the separations.” (source)
Salvador Dali, Jackie Gleason’s “Lonesome Echo” (1955)
It was no less than legendary surrealist master himself Salvador Dali who designed the cover art for TV star Jackie Gleason’s record. If you’re at a loss with the message that the cover was trying to convey, Dali himself explained:
“The first effect is that of anguish, of space, and of solitude. Secondly, the fragility of late afternoon, reverberates in the landscape like an echo. The feminine element, distant and isolated, forms a perfect triangle with the musical instrument and its other echo, the shell.” (source)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith’s “Horses” (1975)
“Horses” was Patti Smith ‘s debut album, and the cover art features a photo of her taken by her friend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe without using any fancy gear – just a Polaroid camera and natural light, shot on location at a penthouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. The friendship between the two artists apparently started when Smith accidentally wandered into Mapplethorpe’s apartment while looking for somebody else on her first day in New York!
Banksy, Blur’s “Think Tank” (2003)
To wrap up this week’s Top 5, we’re going a bit more recent and include famous graffiti artist Banksy ‘s design for band Blur’s seventh studio album, “Think Tank.” Banksy had prided himself for avoiding commercial work (which the Blur album was), and so at a later time he defended himself, saying:
“I’ve done a few things to pay the bills, and I did the Blur album. It was a good record and [the commission was] quite a lot of money. I think that’s a really important distinction to make. If it’s something you actually believe in, doing something commercial doesn’t turn it to shit just because it’s commercial. Otherwise you’ve got to be a socialist rejecting capitalism altogether, because the idea that you can marry a quality product with a quality visual and be a part of that even though it’s capitalistic is sometimes a contradiction you cant live with. But sometimes it’s pretty symbiotic, like the Blur situation.” (source)
This article was inspired by artnet news’ The Top 12 Album Covers Designed by Famous Artists. Additional information were sourced from The Velvet Underground & Nico on Wikipedia, Speaking in Tongues (album) on WIkipedia, Artists’ Books and Multiples, Google Books, Etsy, Horses (album) on Wikipedia, and Think Tank (album) on Wikipedia.
Like this article? Check out our Top Five List series in the Lomography magazine!