How art made album covers iconic | Music | DW | 09.12.2016

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How art made album covers iconic

Pop and rock stars like Prince, The Beatles and Pink Floyd are not only famous for their music, but also for their album covers. A Berlin exhibition is showing the most iconic record art.

Prince: Naked on a throne of flowers. Rage Against the Machine: a monk in flames on the street. Nirvana: a baby swimming toward a dollar bill. The Beatles: four men walking across the street. Sex Pistols: a bright yellow cover with a pink banner. Pink Floyd: a prism and a black background.

Every pop and rock fan who collects records will have at least one of these albums on their shelf. You just need to glance at the cover to hear the music in your head. These album covers have imprinted themselves both optically and acoustically in our collective memories.

Album cover - The Velvet Underground and Nico (Polydor (Universal)US)

Andy Warhol designed the album "The Velvet Underground & Nico" from 1967

Celebrity collaborations

Album covers have always served to visualize a musician's identity. Stars have teamed up with famous artists and photographers to achieve dramatic and - most importantly - memorable results: Robert Frank and The Rolling Stones, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Kraftwerk, Herb Ritts and Madonna, Annie Leibovitz and Cindy Lauper, Nobuyoshi Araki and Björk, Jeff Wall and Iggy Pop, Anton Corbijn and U2, Weegee and George Michael, to name a few.

Even artists like Andy Warhol (pictured) and Robert Rauschenberg left their mark on pop music.

Room for creativity

Measuring 31.5 by 31.5 centimeters, a record cover gave creative minds plenty of possibilities - even more if the album cover had a flap. In addition to the music, there was a lot that bands could offer their fans, from song texts to photo collages.

When the tiny CD overtook the record, the design space diminished. And now music downloads just get a thumbnail photo - if anything. The art of designing album covers has been lost over the years.

The exhibition "Total Records - Vinyl & Fotografie" at C/O Berlin brings back the iconic albums from the past decades. From December 9 through April 23, 2017, 500 album covers from the 1950s to the 2000s, representing both big stars and lesser known artists, are on display.

Click through the gallery above for five iconic album covers from the exhibition in C/O Berlin. Below, you'll find five album covers you may not have known were designed by famous artists. 



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