Museums Corner | Vinyl Countdown: the top 400

Album Covers: Vinyl Revival
With the exhibition ‘Album covers: vinyl revival’, Designmuseum Danmark is appealing to a broad audience: from young and old with a general interest in culture, to design aficionados and music lovers.

Six decades of design
With a thematic presentation of more than 400 specially selected covers, this is – also in an international context – the first broad manifestation of the six decade design history of the LP cover. The exhibition presents the visual culture of the album cover and its international development within a wide diversity of musical genres, documented with original releases throughout. Beginning with the early illustrated LP covers of over 60 years ago, the exhibition takes us all the way to today’s ongoing vinyl revival.

Front cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by Beatles

Early beginnings
The modern album cover, as we know it today, has its origins in the graphic designer Alex Steinweiss’s illustrated cover for the Rodgers & Hart shellac album, Smash Song Hits, released by Columbia Records in 1940. However, the illustrated cover did not enjoy its real breakthrough until the introduction of the long-playing vinyl record in 1948. That made records more user-friendly: they played for longer and were less fragile. But the introduction of the vinyl record and the larger format also marked the beginning of decades of lavishly illustrated, experimental, artistic and varied covers that put a face on the music and provided the interface, and added appeal, when the product met the consumer in the record stores.

This is our rhythm

Vinyl revival
Parallel with the digital development, there has been growing interest in the aesthetics and cultural history of the record cover in recent years, across the age groups. From 2006 to 2010, sales figures for LPs have grown explosively. Vinyl records still only make up a small fraction of the music market, but it is the only physical music medium that is experiencing growth. Currently, there is considerable interest in the golden days of the rock album cover, and young artists, musicians and graphic designers are creating new graphic examples of high-quality modern cover design. A characteristic of the rock cover is that it reflects a time of great musical diversity: an era when anything was possible, and the graphic LP cover format underwent a renaissance with rock and rock imagery as the major exponents. While the 1990s were a period of decline for the LP cover, the beginning of this new millennium has seen a revival, and the large-format rock album cover is now enjoying renewed impact and status as a visual medium.

They belong to us all
The exhibition addresses the album cover both as common property and as a design object that is recognised for its ability to define a mood and an atmosphere. The exhibition will run at Designmuseum Danmark until 10 March 2013.

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