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The art of the album cover: New book features more than 500 examples, from Patti Smith to Kanye West

The art of the album cover: New book features more than 500 examples, from Patti Smith to Kanye West
A detail of Jeff Koons' cover for Lady Gaga's 2013 album, "Artpop." (Taschen)

Long before Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground album cover — you know, the one with the banana — notable visual artists had been collaborating with musicians on the literal packaging of their sound.

The new book “Art Record Covers” traces the colorful lineage of these collaborations with more than 500 examples, including Banksy and Blur; Mike Kelley and Sonic Youth; and William Eggleston and Big Star.

Writer and contemporary art historian Francesco Spampinato collected examples during the last decade, eventually amassing more than 3,000. His favorites made it into this oversized Taschen book, which also features interviews with Shepard Fairey, Kim Gordan and Tauba Auerbach, among others.  

Spampinato has long been fascinated by artists who played in bands, so it was natural for him to look at powerful record images that rose to the level of fine art. Warhol put his signature on the cover of the Velvet Underground album because he wanted to make sure it was seen as a work of art, Spampinato says.

Throughout the book he highlights why the connections between mediums are so meaningful. He points out that the first cover Raymond Pettibon did for Black Flag — a nervous teacher holding up a chair to protect himself from an angry youth — is “a visual representation of punk rock.”

Robert Mapplethorpe photography for Patti Smith's "Horses," 1975
Robert Mapplethorpe photography for Patti Smith's "Horses," 1975 (Taschen)
Raymond Pettibon for Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown," 1980
Raymond Pettibon for Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown," 1980 (Taschen)
Takashi Murakami's art for Kanye West's "Graduation," 2007
Takashi Murakami's art for Kanye West's "Graduation," 2007 (Taschen)
Andy Warhol for the Velvet Underground and Nico, 1967
Andy Warhol for the Velvet Underground and Nico, 1967 (Taschen)

jessica.gelt@latimes.com

@jessicagelt

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