20 Original Album Covers That Are Actually Works Of Art

From Banksy to Damian Hirst and Jeff Koons to Raymond Pettibon, some of the greatest artists of our times have been enlisted by bands to create art for album covers. Beats a boring press shot, eh?

1
Blur – Think Tank (Banksy)

Blur – Think Tank (Banksy)

The cover for Blur’s last album, 2003’s Think Tank, was designed by Banksy, a rare foray into commercial work for the notorious Bristolian graffiti artist. Here are 19 other album covers that are also works of art.

2
Lady Gaga – Artpop (Jeff Koons)

Lady Gaga – Artpop (Jeff Koons)

Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for a preposterous $58 million when it was auctioned in November 2003, so if Lady Gaga’s never going to get rich from Spotify plays, then she could always auction off the artwork for Artpop.

3
Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse (Richard Prince)

Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse (Richard Prince)

Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse (Richard Prince)

The cover art for Sonic Nurse by Sonic Youth is taken from the Richard Prince painting Overseas Nurse. The 2003 artwork fetched a mighty £8.5 million when it was sold at Sotheby’s in London in 2008.

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4
Manic Street Preachers – Holy Bible (Jenny Saville)

Manic Street Preachers – Holy Bible (Jenny Saville)

The Lucien Freud-like triptych on the cover of the Holy Bible was actually painted by artist Jenny Saville, and the Manic Street Preachers commissioned her again for 2009’s Journal of Plague Lovers (featuring posthumous Richey Edwards lyrics).

5
The Buzzcocks – Orgasm Addict (Linder Sterling)

The Buzzcocks - Orgasm Addict (Linder Sterling)

The Buzzcocks – Orgasm Addict (Linder Sterling)

It’s not an album cover, but this gallery would feel incomplete without Linder Sterling’s cover for ‘Orgasm Addict’, the first single from doyens of the pop punk single, The Buzzcocks. Sterling’s work was exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris in 2013.

6
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You (Damien Hirst)

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You (Damien Hirst)

It wasn’t the first time Damien Hirst designed a cover for a band (that was for The Hours, who the minted modern artist bankrolled), however the work he did for the Red Hot Chili Peppers I’m With You album had more traction, given the fame of the band.

7
The Velvet Underground and Nico (Andy Warhol)

The Velvet Underground and Nico (Andy Warhol)

The Velvet Underground’s story would be very different indeed without Andy Warhol’s patronage. The legendary artist produced this iconic banana screen-print for the band’s album with Nico, and it has become one of the most enduring images in (art) rock.

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8
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Urs Fischer)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It’s Blitz (Urs Fischer)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Urs Fischer)

Karen O was a big fan of Swiss-born New York-based neo-Dadaist Urs Fischer before they worked together on the cover of It’s Blitz (yes, that is Karen’s hand) in 2008. What’s more, Karen was reunited with Darren Bader – her art school chum – when she found him working under Urs in 2008. She says she’s a big fan of his work now too.

9
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (Peter Saville)

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (Peter Saville)

The cover art for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures was the idea of drummer Stephen Morris, who passed the pulsing duochrome image to graphic designer Peter Saville. It became one of the most iconic works of art in modern music, and even spawned a Mickey Mouse tribute t-shirt (until Disney issued a cease and desist order).

10
Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (Andy Warhol)

Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (Andy Warhol)

Andy Warhol looks a scream, hang him on the wall. Word has it, Warhol didn’t like the Bowie song about him, but he did like rock ‘n’ roll. In fact he steeped himself in it, and made a number of classic covers, including the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, complete with a zip with the original copies of the LP.

11
Sonic Youth – Goo (Raymond Pettibon)

Sonic Youth – Goo (Raymond Pettibon)

It’s no real surprise that there’s more than one Sonic Youth entry in this gallery, the second for Goo, made by acclaimed and award-winning artist, Raymond Pettibon. The Arizonian artist came to prominence when he designed a sleeve for Black Flag in the 80’s, and he’s also made covers for Foo Fighters and Cerebral Ballzy since then.

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12
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (Guy Peellaert)

David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (Guy Peellaert)

The cover art of Bowie’s dystopian concept album Diamond Dogs was painted by Guy Peellaert, and originally the Belgian painted Bowie as a hound replete with testicles. Although on the back cover (the painting on the gatefold sleeve covers front and back), the offending dog’s bollocks were airbrushed out for the record’s release.

13
Serge Gainsbourg – Love on the Beat (William Klein)

Serge Gainsbourg - Love on the Beat (William Klein)

Serge Gainsbourg – Love on the Beat (William Klein)

The cover art for Love On The Beat sees French singer Serge Gainsbourg dressed up in drag. Thirsty Serge gave up alcohol for 12 days ahead of a shoot with legendary photographer William Klein to make himself beautiful. A retrospective of Klein’s work ran at the Tate Modern in 2012.

14
The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks (Jamie Reid)

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks (Jamie Reid)

Jamie Reid was the perfect choice to illustrate the Sex Pistols’ only studio LP; the anarchic artist made the first English anthology of Guy Debord and the Situationists. “I saw punk as part of an art movement that’s gone over the last 100 years, with roots in Russian agitprop, surrealism, dada and situationism,” he said.

15
Roxy Music – Flesh + Blood (Peter Saville)

Roxy Music - Flesh + Blood (Peter Saville)

Roxy Music – Flesh + Blood (Peter Saville)

He might be a graphic designer by trade, but Peter Saville’s influence over turn-of-the century culture cannot be underestimated. Saville was installed as art director at Factory Records and has subsequently made album covers for Roxy Music (pictured), Suede, Pulp, OMD and many more. London’s Design Museum ran a retrospective in 2003.

16
Madonna – Celebration (Mr Brainwash)

Madonna - Celebration (Mr Brainwash)

Madonna – Celebration (Mr Brainwash)

Whether Mr Brainwash is a real artist or a fraud is open to conjecture. The prolific Frenchman Thierry Guetta, subject of the hilarious documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop, took LA by storm when he exhibited there in 2008, and impressed Madonna enough for her to commission him to do the art for her third greatest hits, Celebration.

17
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper (Peter Blake)

The Beatles – Sgt Pepper (Peter Blake)

Everything about Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was ambitious, so it stands to reason that the cover art was too. Designed by artist Peter Blake, it featured a collage of 20th century titans, including the Beatles themselves (twice), Dylan, Marilyn, Gandhi… Lennon wanted Hitler and Jesus too, but they didn’t make the cut.

18
Patti Smith – Horses (Robert Mapplethorpe)

Patti Smith – Horses (Robert Mapplethorpe)

The cover art for Horses was taken by feted photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and was described by Camille Paglia as “one of the greatest pictures ever taken of a woman.” Smith’s record company wanted to change it but Smith stood her ground. The singer’s relationship with the photographer is explored in Patti’s lauded memoir Just Kids.

19
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (Mati Klarwein)

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (Mati Klarwein)

French painter Mati Klarwein, the man who made the far out artwork for Miles Davis’ legendary Bitches Brew, was – according to influential art magazine Juxtapoz – “the man literally responsible for every great, legendary record cover you’ve ever seen – if he didn’t do it, he inspired it”.

20
Grace Jones – Nightclubbing (Jean-Paul Goude)

Grace Jones - Nightclubbing (Jean-Paul Goude)

Grace Jones – Nightclubbing (Jean-Paul Goude)

Can any other artist boast as many iconic album covers? Grace is a work of art herself, as are the covers for Island Life, Slave To The Rhythm and Living My Life, but best of all is the louche image of Nightclubbing by Jean-Paul Goude, part Tretchikoff’s Green Lady, part the best advert for smoking you’ve ever seen.

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