Sure, everybody knows that Andy Warhol did the artwork to The Velvet Underground and Nico and Sticky Fingers, and that Annie Leibovitz did the cover shot for Born in the USA. But honestly, from what you read on the Internet sometimes, you’d think they’re the only two artists to have ever moonlighted in designing record covers. That’s of course not the case at all — plenty of other renowned artists have been responsible for cover artwork over the years. Indeed, we’ve addressed this topic before, but with Grizzly Bear’s Shields out this week — complete with a sleeve featuring a painting by figurative painter Richard Diebenkorn — we thought we’d have a look at some other great record sleeves you may not have known were designed by famous contemporary artists. Did we miss any?
Debbie Harry — Koo Koo
Artist: H.R. Giger
As Giger says ruefully on his website, “many small bands over the years, presumably fans of mine, [have] appropriated my artwork for their album and CD covers. I find it very disappointing that, even today, it continues to happen.” But Giger’s also designed his fair share of covers, and our favorite is this one for Debbie Harry’s 1981 solo album. The artist relates his thoughts on the cover in his own inimitable way: “I was greatly pleased to be allowed to create something for such an attractive woman, although I had never heard anything from the group. This was due to the fact that I was more interested in jazz.”
Sigur Ros — Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Artist: Ryan McGinley
McGinley clearly gets on well with Sigur Rós — as well as the beautiful sleeve to Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust above, he also did a video for Valtari single “Varúð.”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs — It’s Blitz!
Artist: Urs Fischer
According to a 2009 interview with The New York Times, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came across Swiss artist Urs Fischer after he did the cover art for New York band Services’ puntastically titled album Eat Prey Love. And if you’ve ever wondered, that is indeed Karen O’s hand doing the squishing.
Grizzly Bear — Shields
Artist: Richard Diebenkorn
Quite why Grizzly Bear chose this particular print from the late Richard Diebenkorn’s Clubs and Spades is unclear, but it’s part of a general Diebenkornfest as far as the artwork for Shields goes — several other of the painter’s works feature on the album’s inner sleeve and booklet.
Dinosaur Jr. — Farm
Artist: Marq Spusta
Surrealist cartoonist Marq Spusta does a heap of music-related work — apart from the cover to Farm, he’s done posters for the likes of The Decemberists, Sleepy Sun, St. Vincent, and Blitzen Trapper. (He’s also done a tour poster for the Dave Matthews Band, but don’t hold that against him.)
Sonic Youth — Daydream Nation
Artist: Gerhard Richter
Sonic Youth have included the work of various interesting artists on their sleeves over the years — The Eternal featured a painting by guitarist and painter John Fahey, while Sonic Nurse used a piece by Richard Prince — but as far as we’re concerned, Gerhard Richter’s stark Candle remains their most iconic cover, especially since it adorns what is in our humble opinion the band’s greatest album.
Manic Street Preachers — The Holy Bible
Artist: Jenny Saville
One of our all-time favorite covers for one of our all-time favorite albums. Jenny Saville’s painting Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face) is a remarkable piece of work, a triptych of an unnamed model surveying her body in a mirror. To our eyes, Saville’s depiction of human flesh in all its blotchy, multi-toned glory recalls Lucian Freud, although the most striking aspect of the painting remains the model’s expression, a curiously ambivalent and inscrutable gaze that could communicate just about anything. (There’s more of Saville’s work in a similar vein here, too.)
Menomena — Friend and Foe
Artist: Craig Thompson
Speaking of surrealist cartoons, this sleeve was designed by the man responsible for coming-of-age-and-escaping-hardcore-Christian-family graphic novel Blankets, which won a bunch of awards on its release in 2004.
The Hours, generally
Artist: Damien Hirst
There was a whole lot of fuss made about Hirst designing the cover for the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, but years before that, he assumed a kinda Warhol-ish svengali role with UK indie types The Hours, designing a series of skull-themed sleeves for their debut EP, debut album, and accompanying singles. We’ve included the album cover above — you can set the whole lot here, along with Hirst’s other cover art (most notably for Joe Strummer’s solo debut).
Coldplay — A Rush of Blood to the Head
Artist: Sølve Sundsbø
Sundsbø is a fashion photographer with a liking for making dramatic manipulations to his photos — and this image, originally shot for Dazed and Confused in the 1990s and created by shooting a model with a three-dimensional scanner, took the idea to an extreme. Coldplay apparently spotted the image years later and asked for permission to use it — given that the record ended up selling a bazillion copies, we imagine that Sundsbø was only too happy to say “yes.”