Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Museum pop culture display wears art on its sleeve

Album covers down years celebrated at museum

Kim Mawhinney, senior curator of Art at National Museums NI, at the Ulster Museum's Art of Selling songs exhibition
Kim Mawhinney, senior curator of Art at National Museums NI, at the Ulster Museum's Art of Selling songs exhibition
The Clash in Belfast in 1977
Sex Pistols covers
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

It's an exhibition that's sure to get music fans digging out their old collections and looking again at the covers of those LPs and CDs in the attic.

And it will definitely produce a few 'I've got that one' moments as you slip into pop culture paradise on a journey through the original artwork for some of the world's greatest albums when they go on display at the Ulster Museum from today.

The exhibition is on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and, as senior curator of art at National Museums NI Kim Mawhinney explained, there is much more to 'The Art of Selling Songs' than meets the eye.

"We've all hugely enjoyed working on the exhibition," she admitted.

"From the 1960s to the 1980s there was an explosion in music imagery, from psychedelic graphics to punk collages.

"There are album covers which people will recognise, but we have over 70 pieces on display from the V&A and it's a close-up look at how art movements influenced graphic design through the decades and how they have all mirrored music tastes.

She added: "You start to see the influence of actual artists: Andy Warhol's Rolling Stones cover for their Sticky Fingers album, Julian Opie's iconic work with Blur in the 1990s, work from Damien Hirst, and you can follow Hirst's influence in other designers who followed him."

The collection of covers, sleeve notes, programmes and posters dates back to the late 1800s through to the complex sleeves designed for The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

"We want to be relevant to society now and reflect the fashion and the trends and to go even further back to see how design and music have worked hand in hand," said Ms Mawhinney.

"In many ways pop culture reflects our lives, how we grew up, but removing the art from the music lets you start to appreciate just how much goes into the design."

In addition to the V&A's exhibition, the Ulster Museum has added a section called Overtones: Irish Music Art, which showcases the visual world of Irish bands from the 1960s through to the present day.

"I'm sure we've missed out many people's favourites, as there is so much to choose from," added the curator.

"We have a hashtag #OvertonesUM and we'd like to hear what iconic covers and artwork appeal to people out there. Let us know if we've missed a classic you love."

The Art of Selling Songs: Music Graphics from the V&A exhibition will be accompanied by a series of creative Saturday workshops and talks.

The exhibition will be at the Ulster Museum until September 15. Admission is free.

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