Warhol began designing record sleeves shortly after moving to New York in 1949, having completed his course in pictorial design and commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He planned to pursue a career in magazine illustration and advertising, and soon after his arrival in the city received a commission from the Museum of Modern Art to design the sleeve for A Program of Mexican Music.
This commission began an interest in record cover art that would continue throughout Warhol's life. Warhol's own avid enthusiasm for music (he often worked to the accompaniment of deafeningly loud music) surely contributed to his continued interest in sleeve design, but the medium also allowed him to blur the boundaries between commercial design and high art which fascinated him throughout his career. Record sleeves offered an opportunity to take a fairly everyday object, elevate it to a work of art, and then mass produce it for the commercial market. In the iconic and provocative "banana" design for Velvet Underground in 1967 he pushed this idea the furthest, omitting any mention of the band or the album title from the sleeve and instead printing his own name, like a signature, alongside the peelable banana.
Warhol's designs encompass a vast range of musical genres, from classical to jazz to spoken word recordings to popular artists including The Rolling Stones, Debbie Harry, Diana Ross and John Lennon. Alongside his commissioned work, numerous musicians have turned to his wider artistic oeuvre as a source for cover art. Warhol's final design for MTV - High Priority remained unfinished on his death in 1987 and was completed by his studio. This collection includes an example of the MTV sleeve and one final addition: Songs for Drella, Lou Reed and John Cale's album dedicated to Warhol's memory.
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