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The V&A’s Art of Selling Songs exhibition comes to the Ulster Museum

What does music look like? The V&A’s Art of Selling Songs exhibition comes to the Ulster Museum

Original artwork for some of the world’s greatest album covers will go on display at the Ulster Museum from June 14, 2019. The exhibition entitled The Art of Selling Songs: Music Graphics from the V&A includes some 70 album covers, sleeve notes, programmes and posters from a wide-ranging spectrum of genres dating from the 19th century through to 2016.

The exhibition is on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Among the artwork and objects are posters from the late 1800s advertising French and British live ‘smoking concerts’, rare record sleeves for artists such as Louis Armstrong and Blue Mitchell right through to the complex sleeves designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth for the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album.

In between are 1920s discs made from rubber, shellac and minerals, vinyls that emerged after the Second World War and the introduction of cassettes in the 1960s and CDs in the 1980s.

The exhibition also celebrates the contribution of a range of well-known artists and designers from the late 19th century to the 21st century, including Henri Gabriel Ibels, Reginald Mount, Andy Warhol, Albert Watson, Peter Saville and Julien Opie and reflects the changes in printing methods, design trends and how performers influenced how they wanted to portray their personality.

Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI, Kim Mawhinney, says the museum team has hugely enjoyed working on the exhibition.

“From the 1960s to the 1980s there was an explosion in iconic music imagery, from psychedelic graphics to punk collages and sleek postmodernist looks. These rich and imaginative visuals were often produced by star designers attached to record companies.”

She adds “There are album covers here which the general public will see and recognise but what will be most striking are the most recent additions including the 2014 artwork for Royal Blood’s eponymous album and the 2016 record sleeve for Ash & Ice by The Kills.”

“Visitors of all ages who see these will re-assess the value of the artwork displayed here which stands shoulder to shoulder with older, established classics,” she says.

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

The exhibition is a radically updated edition of the original 1991 V&A show called The Art of Selling Songs: Graphics for the Music Business 1690-1990.

The exhibition’s curator, Riikka Kuittinen, said: “This exhibition arrives at a moment when the digital revolution reaches full maturity, and music and visuals filter through screens like everything else. This exhibition looks back at the vibrant graphic art of music with curiosity and considers the now. I am thrilled to see this exhibition at the dynamic Ulster Museum, and in Belfast with its internationally significant music scene.”

The Art of Selling Songs: Music Graphics from the V&A exhibition will be accompanied by a series of creative Saturday workshops and gallery talks. The exhibition will be at the Ulster Museum until 15th September.

Admission is free. For more information, visit <> .

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