From Warhol to Banksy, here’s some of the best album art from the last 30 years
This week Drake dropped Certified Lover Boy with an album cover of 12 pregnant woman emojis, put together by Damien Hirst. The design references two of Hirst’s most famous designs: his anatomical model of a pregnant woman, and his signature spot paintings. The design has split opinion with as many people calling it ‘boring’ and ‘lazy’ as those calling it ‘inspired’ and ‘genius’.
Album covers are imperative to music marketing – they are a visual anchor for an intangible artform. When the design is inevitably printed onto merch, it helps to unite fans and give them a visual reference-point for the music they love so much. Having great album art is key for creating a successful record.
Inspired by the incredible Ferren Gipson’s Twitter thread on the topic, we’re listing our top five album covers created by contemporary artists.
Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, 1971, Designed by Andy Warhol
Warhol’s album art for the Rolling Stone’s ninth studio album caused quite a stir. The close-up shot of a man’s crotch, complete with, erm, bulge and (in the original version) functioning zip was photographed by members of The Factory. It’s never been decided exactly who the model is, although many have claimed the generous package is theirs. It’s gorgeously naughty.
David Bowie’s Without You, 1983, Designed by Keith Haring
Recorded for Bowie’s fifteenth studio album Let’s Dance, Without You features the work of Keith Haring as the album art for its release as a single. Appropriately for the lyrics of the song, the artwork shows a couple with their arms around eachother, with Haring’s signature halo-esque lines radiating from them. It’s a lovely image for a lovely song.
Solange Knowles’ True, 2013, Designed by Mickalene Thomas
Tina Knowles owned a couple of Mickalene Thomas’ artworks and introduced Solange to her work. Thomas is famous for her collaged work which combines images from pop culture, art historical pictures, and rhinestones. This portrait of Solange was used as the limited-edition cover for her first EP, True.
Blur’s Think Tank, 2003, Designed by Banksy
Think Tank is Blur’s seventh studio album and the cover art, by Banksy, features two lovers in eachother’s arms wearing old-fashioned diving helmets. Banksy is infamously anti-commercial, but he said “it was a good record and quite a lot of money” in defence of his decision to take the commission. The cover art sold for £75,000 in 2007.
Lady Gaga’s Art Pop, 2013, Designed by Jeff Koons
This iconic album artwork features a sculpture of Lady Gaga (with 2010’s bangs) with a blue gazing ball between her legs. The gazing ball is a typical Koons image, done in his characteristic colourful metallic finish. In the background of the work are collaged elements of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, which Koons has said is there to represent the transformative power of art.
What are your favourites?