A new exhibition is putting the 50 best record cover designs of 2022 on show, along with a retrospective celebrating album art that goes back to 1949.
Even though most of us don't buy vinyl anymore, record cover art remains a vital part of music marketing and, indeed, the music fan's experience. Whether it's having Graham Norton hold up a physical album cover on TV or seeing a digital version as you listen on Spotify, these evocative designs remain central to our enjoyment of music.
But if there's a certain genre you're not into or particular artists pass you by, it's easy to miss out on some of the best works of album art. To right that wrong, Art Vinyl has launched its 18th Best Art Vinyl Award – an annual search for the year's most creative and well-designed record cover – with the unveiling of a striking record wall display at the Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln, which runs until 12 December.
The display comprises the 50 shortlisted album artworks compiled by a panel of industry experts, artists and designers. We've featured some of the designs on this page, and you can view the full selection and vote for your favourites on the Art Vinyl website or in person at the exhibition.
And that's not all. To mark the Award's anniversary, Best Art Vinyl 2022 is accompanied by a retrospective exhibition. Also running at The Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln until 22 January 2023, this show commemorates iconic album artwork over the years from 1949 to the present day. This includes last year's Best Art Vinyl winner: Brighton artist Paul Phillips' design for Villagers' fifth studio album cover, Fever Dreams.
The retrospective exhibition begins with work from 1949 with a design by Alex Steinweiss, who's regarded as the world's first sleeve designer, for his work on an album of music by Beethoven.
This marks the beginning of a visual journey which pays homage to classic album covers, including the likes of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew, Nick Drake's Pink Moon and Grace Jones' Night Clubbing, along with more recent artistic designs such as The Strokes' Is This It and the eponymous Run the Jewels 3.
Other highlights include two very different covers for The Beatles. One is the White Album, whose minimalist, thought-provoking design has caused intense debate and questions about the importance of sleeve design well into the 21st century. The other is the colourful, psychedelic montage by artist Peter Blake for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Other noteworthy artists featured in the show range from Banksy, for Blur's Think Tank, to the 16th-century artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, whose painting was used for the eponymous Fleet Foxes LP in 2008.
"As an organisation, we made it our mission to bring back 'affordable' art via the ever-present, and now hugely popular, vinyl record," says Andrew Heeps, founder of Art Vinyl. "That mission feels more accomplished today," he adds, "with over 200,000 opinions on contemporary record cover design, expressed and collected over the years to create our touring exhibition archive of the best in sleeve design.
He adds: "Running this award now for 18 years has been a real eye opener to the incredible talent of artists, designers, photographers, and sometimes musicians, who put their heart and soul into these artworks which, over time, become such personal memories for us all."