Art Record Covers: A Book of Over 500 Album Covers Created by Famous Visual Artists

The list of musi­cians who are also visu­al artists goes on and on. We’re all famil­iar with the biggest names: David Bowie, Pat­ti Smith, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Cap­tain Beef­heart, etc, etc, etc. Less­er-known alter­na­tive and indie artists like Stone Ros­es gui­tarist John Squire and Austin singer/songwriter Daniel John­ston cre­at­ed icon­ic imagery that adorned their album cov­ers and mer­chan­dise.

Such mul­ti­tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als embody the kin­ship of sound and vision. But so too do the many col­lab­o­ra­tions between musi­cians and fine artists—hun­dreds of whom have gift­ed their tal­ents to album cov­ers of every con­ceiv­able kind.

Aside from obvi­ous, his­toric exam­ples (Andy Warhol’s Vel­vet Under­ground cov­ers come imme­di­ate­ly to mind) such col­lab­o­ra­tions are often hid­ing in plain sight. Per­haps you did not know, for exam­ple, that the allur­ing yet mys­te­ri­ous deep blue pho­to­graph of Björk on the cov­er of her remix album Telegram is by Nobuyoshi Ara­ki, one of Japan’s most admired and pro­lif­ic fine art pho­tog­ra­phers.

Maybe you were unaware of how Con­cep­tu­al artist Bar­bara Kruger, whose work “speaks truth to pow­er,” con­tributed to the look of the 90s activist indus­tri­al hip-hop group Con­sol­i­dat­ed. Or how Yay­oi Kusama leant her eye-pop­ping dots to Towa Tei’s boun­cy, elec­tron­ic pop for the for­mer Deee-Lite DJ’s 2013 album Lucky.

We all know that Pat­ti Smith’s debut album, Hors­es, fea­tures an icon­ic cov­er pho­to by her friend Robert Map­plethor­pe. But did you know that the cov­er of Metallica’s 1996 album Load is a pho­to­graph­ic study by artist Andreas Ser­ra­no—of Piss Christ fame—that min­gles cow blood and his own semen between sheets of plex­i­glass?

You’ll find hun­dreds more such col­lab­o­ra­tions, though few as vis­cer­al, in Taschen’s new book Art Record Cov­ers, a cel­e­bra­tion of sound and vision in pop­u­lar music. True to the arts publisher’s rep­u­ta­tion for cof­fee table books the size of cof­fee tables, this sur­vey is a com­pre­hen­sive as they come.

The book presents 500 cov­ers and records by visu­al artists from the 1950s through to today, explor­ing how mod­ernism, Pop Art, Con­cep­tu­al Art, post­mod­ernism, and var­i­ous forms of con­tem­po­rary art prac­tice have all informed this col­lat­er­al field of visu­al pro­duc­tion and sup­port­ed the mass dis­tri­b­u­tion of music with defin­ing imagery that swift­ly and sug­ges­tive­ly evokes an aur­al encounter.

Along the way, we find Jean-Michel Basquiat’s urban hiero­glyphs for his own Tar­town record label, Banksy’s sten­ciled graf­fi­ti for Blur, Damien Hirst’s sym­bol­ic skull for the Hours, and a skew­ered Sal­vador Dalí but­ter­fly on Jack­ie Gleason’s Lone­some Echo.

Edi­tor Francesco Spamp­ina­to, an art his­to­ri­an study­ing at the Sor­bonne Nou­velle in Paris, has most­ly kept the focus on pop, rock, punk, met­al, alter­na­tive, and indie. Includ­ing the full breadth of jazz, avant-garde, and oth­er world musics would offer exam­ples enough to jus­ti­fy anoth­er vol­ume or two of Art Record Cov­ers.

The focus is suit­ably broad, nonethe­less, to show how “visu­al and music pro­duc­tion have had a par­tic­u­lar­ly inti­mate rela­tion­ship… since the dawn of mod­ernism…. From Lui­gi Russolo’s 1913 Futur­ist man­i­festo L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noise) to Mar­cel Duchamp’s 1925 dou­ble-sided discs Rotore­liefs.” It’s also a great way to dis­cov­er new art and new music, and to see the inter­re­la­tion­ships between them in entire­ly new ways. Order a copy of Art Record Cov­ers here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

7 Rock Album Cov­ers Designed by Icon­ic Artists: Warhol, Rauschen­berg, Dalí, Richter, Map­plethor­pe & More

The Impos­si­bly Cool Album Cov­ers of Blue Note Records: Meet the Cre­ative Team Behind These Icon­ic Designs

Enter the Cov­er Art Archive: A Mas­sive Col­lec­tion of 800,000 Album Cov­ers from the 1950s through 2018

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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