Their illustrations have decorated the walls of millions of teenage bedrooms since the 1970s. Yet many people have never heard of the London design studio Hipgnosis. Now the Groninger Museum is honouring the group, which designed legendary album covers for some of the world’s biggest rock acts, with its first ever major exhibition: The Art of Hipgnosis: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel & 10cc.
An up-close look
Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, 10cc – these are just a few names on the impressive list of bands and musicians for whom the London studio Hipgnosis designed album covers during the heyday of vinyl. Many featured surrealist images, produced long before the invention of digital photography and Photoshop. The Art of Hipgnosis gives you an up-close look at the design, process and stories behind the most iconic album covers ever made.
“We didn’t have Photoshop. Everything had to be shot on film and done by hand. And average artwork could take three to six weeks, whereas you could do some of these album covers in an afternoon now.” - Aubrey "Po" Powell, founder of Hipgnosis, 2017, Rolling Stones
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The album covers as art
The Dutch photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn’s documentary Squaring The Circle: The Story of Hipgnosis, which premiered recently, looks at how some of the cover designs came into being. Though Hipgnosis is known for colourful work, Corbijn chose to make his film in black-and-white, “except for the introduction of each sleeve,” he says. “Those are in colour, to show that they brought colour to the world.”
“Hipgnosis turned the visual interpretation of music into an art form,” says Groninger Museum director Andreas Blühm, who curated the exhibition with Hipgnosis founder Aubrey Powell. All the photographs and objects in The Art of Hipgnosis come from Powell's private archive.
The documentary is currently not on display in the Groninger Museum.
Tricks and tips
Anyone interested in learning more about this art form can pick up a few tricks at the Groninger Museum during The Art of Hipgnosis. The designers will be sharing their secrets in 14 steps. One lesson: sometimes a design fails. A selection of “outtakes” – sleeves rejected by artists including the Rolling Stones – will be on display along with the famous ones.
The opening of The Art of Hipgnosis coincides with Groningen’s annual international music event Eurosonic/Noorderslag (ESNS), taking place from 18 to 21 January 2023. ESNS is a conference devoted to European pop music and a showcase festival dedicated to the promotion and discovery of new European and Dutch music.
The Art of Hipgnosis playlist
Take a trip down memory lane with our The Art of Hipgnosis playlist! Listen to the greatest hits of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel and 10cc.