Groninger Museum unveils a world first with exhibition The Art of Hipgnosis
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 runs from 19 January through 14 May 2023.
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 visitors an up-close look at the design, process and stories behind the most iconic album covers ever made.
Hipgnosis created several sleeves for the hugely popular band Pink Floyd. The best-known is the cover of The Dark Side of the Moon, which features a prism. That album turns 50 on 3 March 2023.
The designers pulled out all the stops to produce their work, sometimes with noteworthy consequences. In 1977, the making of the cover of another Pink Floyd album, Animals, caused a panic in London when a 12-metre inflatable pig tethered between two of Battersea Power Station's chimneys came loose and floated away in the direction of Heathrow Airport.
The album cover 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.
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.
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