The walls of Idea Generation gallery in Shoreditch are currently lined with record sleeves. There are more than 600 covers – some hand drawn, some knitted, some designed by world famous artists. The sleeves are being exhibited anonymously, leaving visitors guessing who designed which and for what single. That is, until they’ve bought one. They are going on sale on Record Store Day to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust. Called Secret 7”, the project is the brainchild of Kevin King from Universal Music UK, who spoke to Wonderland about it.
Can you explain how the project works? Who’s involved?
We got artists to design sleeves for unreleased tracks by CSS, Florence and the Machine, Noah and the Whale, Ben Howard, Bombay Bicycle Club and DJ Shadow, as well as The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” as part for its 20th anniversary. Our guideline was to steer away from using the artist’s name or track title. Around half the pieces are by artists who entered a global competition through a website called Talenthouse [5000 people applied]. The rest are by designers like David Shrigley, Michael Spencer Jones who has done Oasis and Verve covers, Central Station who did Happy Mondays’, Toby Mott [De La Soul] and Richard Evans [The Who]. Robert Smith and Florence Welch have done sleeves too – not necessarily their own though.The deadline for sleeves was the end of March. It was like Christmas. I was running out of storage space in the office. My desk draws had sleeves coming out everywhere. I’m glad they all got here unscathed.
What makes record sleeves so special?
They are works of art, and are a physical extension of the music. People can engage with more than one of their senses when listening to music on vinyl.
Why the anonymity of the designers?
It brings the focus on to the interpretation of the artwork. People like testing their detective skills and seeing if they can work out which single is which and who designed it. It adds an extra dimension to an exhibition like this.
Is there a big range of designs? Is it easy to guess which is which?
Two thirds are digital prints, but we invited people to push the perception of what a seven inch sleeve really is. We have a wooden guitar sleeve, people have made them out of felt, there’s one with butterflies carved out of the sleeve. There are themes. Obviously “Friday I’m in Love” has themes of love and the heart but there’s lots of other hearts on Bombay Bicycle Club and Ben Howard sleeves. It will be interesting when people come to pick them up whether they get what they’re expecting to.
How are visitors reacting to them so far?
I think all the unusual ones are very popular, but everyone seems to be having a good look at the flying fox. I’ve heard lots of wrong guesses of which is which, there’s really big buzz among Cure fans around which one is by Robert Smith. There was a lady in the gallery earlier and she was pointing around guessing at some. She wanted me to play a game of ‘warmer or colder’.
Do you think there are going to be some angry customers on Record Store Day who guessed wrong?
There may be a couple, but I hope not. I reckon people will be happy with the piece of art they’ve bought. If they get the record they desire inside then brilliant – they have a one-off 7” sleeve that could be by one of their favourite bands.
The Secret 7” exhibition runs until April 22 with the records on sale from 10am Saturday morning. Minimum donation is £40 with all proceeds going to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, London, E2 7JB
Words: Kate Lloyd