For The Record
The Photographers’ Gallery re-opens its doors this April with For the Record: Photography & the Art of the Album Cover, an exhibition entirely dedicated to the artworks that have graced the world’s most influential music albums. From Andy Warhol‘s pop-art cover of The Rolling Stones‘ 1977 record Love You Live to Irving Penn’s striking portrait of Miles Davis on the musician’s 1986 record, Tutu, over 200 works will be on display including photographs by Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller, William Eggleston, David Bailey and Guy Bourdin. These are the images that define some of music’s most iconic works – deeply entrenched in our cultural conciousness.
Initially developed at the prestigious Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles, the exhibition has travelled from the south of France, to Berlin, Barcelona, Zürich and now, London. Marking the opening, we speak to curator and connoisseur Antoine de Beaupré about his relationship with vinyl and dive into his personal collection of over 15,000 records, which forms the foundation of the exhibition.
Arijana Zeric: When did you start collecting records?
Antoine de Beaupré: I started buying my first vinyls with the arrival of hiphop to Europe in the mid 80s. I listened to all the Boogie Down productions, Scott La Rock with KRS One… After that I decided to study music and graduated from Berkeley College. I’ve been collecting records ever since. It all began with music so I became an art collector by default.
AZ: What fascinates you about the format?
AdB: Vinyls are interesting from the artist’s point of view, because the record is more conceived as a project. Vinyls force you to listen to the entire album, rather than skipping through tracks like you’d do on Spotify or iTunes. I don’t think it’s a nostalgic thing, it’s just a more committed way of listening to music. There’s more depth to it. You have to listen until one side ends and then you flip the record. It has a beginning and an ending. The experience is more palpable and it involves you. There’s also the usage of a turntable, an amplifier, speakers, so it’s a process. Vinyls also sound different.
The Rolling Stones, Love You Live, Rolling Stones Records COC 2-9001, USA, 1977. Photography & Design: Andy Warhol
AZ: And the cover art is often just as important as the music.
AdB: Record covers could be a message. There is this mystery, magic around vinyls. Many artists were really into making record covers. Take Mati Klarwein for example. He did the cover for Carlos Santana’s Abraxas and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis amongst many others. In the late 60s or early 70s, people were tripping on those covers. They literally did drugs and looked at covers tripping. People still spend time with record covers. Of course it’s a very personal thing. There is no such thing anymore with this digitalised age of music. It’s impossible.
Diana Ross, ‘Silk Electric’, RCA -AFL1-4384, New York, USA, 1982. Photography & Design: Andy Warhol
AZ: Do you have a favourite cover in your collection?
AdB: I don’t have one in particular. There are so many great ones, several of them are very rare. I have a lot of first editions in jazz and some silk screened record covers. Some are very limited editions or were made in small runs. Others are unique with an original drawing. Sun Ra for example, some of his covers are original drawings. I did two exhibitions on music related to art. Now I hear people saying to me they bought a record just because of the cover.
AZ: And there’s also a joy in the search, finding that one record you want.
AdB: Before the internet you had to spend hours and hours in the record shops digging. Now most stuff is available online. There’s always someone somewhere selling something. When I used to travel I’d go to the record shops in each place looking for new finds. It’s still very important to do it this way because you’re also very limited through the internet because you can only look for what you know. But when you go to a record shop you can talk to the owners and you share information with the people working there. They also make you discover things. It’s a different, more direct approach. Some records that are extremely rare are hard to find simply because the dealers won’t sell them online. You have to know who they are and go and see them. They prefer to know who they’re selling to and they like to keep this human relationship. However, the majority is available online and it’s all about how much you’re willing to pay more than anything else.
AZ: Is there anything in particular that you’re trying to find at the moment?
AdB: The search is endless. There are millions of records out there. The more you listen to music the more you want to discover. It’s always in movement, it never stops. You’re never stuck to one label or musician.
For The Record runs at The Photographers’ Gallery 8th April – 12th June 2022.
Grace Jones, Island Life, Island Records –207 472, France, 1985. Photography: Jean-Paul Goude; Design: Greg Porto