Michael Kagan astronaut painting wins Best Art Vinyl 2013 top prize

The winning entry in the Best Art Vinyl Award competition for 2013 is an astronaut portrait by Michael Kagan:

Best Art Vinyl 2013: Winners Announced
Michael Kagan’s Artwork for White Lies’ Record ‘Big TV’ Claims the Top Spot

3 January 2014 – The winners of the award ‘Best Art Vinyl 2013’ have been announced. The public has voted Michael Kagan’s oil painting on the cover of White Lies’ record ‘Big TV’ to number one. In second place we find ‘Repent Replenish Repeat’ by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip with artwork by Paul Jackson, followed by Bonobo’s ‘North Borders’ designed by Leif Podhajsky in third.


White Lies, who came 7th in Best Art Vinyl 2009 with the record cover of ‘To Lose My Life’, approached Kagan wanting to use his painting ‘Pilot 2’ depicting a man in a space suit for their 2013 release. Michael Kagan explains “From the beginning, the band was very sincere and I could tell immediately how connected they felt to the painting and how it was important for them to use it.”
The painting, which in its original is oil on canvas, forms part of a series of paintings by Kagan created in 2010 portraying astronauts. Among them we find astronauts from the early space initiative ‘Project Mercury’ highlighting Kagan’s predisposition to revolve his work around iconic images.

The founder of the Best Art Vinyl award Andrew Heeps comments: “In an era with a heavy focus on the digital music format, it is interesting to see that the public prefers such a traditional artistic technique as oil on canvas to associate with music. With the music industry reporting increases in vinyl record sales for the 9th consecutive year, this traditional music format is seriously having a renaissance. Over a quarter of vinyl records are now sold as wall art, adding visual appeal to the high quality listening experience. It is therefore clearly apparent that the Best Art Vinyl Award has highlighted the amazing affordable art available to us all through over 60 years of record cover art and design, and continues to do so.”

Michael Kagan shares his feelings about his art becoming an important part of the music experience: “It has been a very exciting experience for me to see my artwork used in this way. I have really enjoyed how involved the band has wanted me to be. We spent some time together in NYC, and after seeing their show, I could see how the painting had really become a symbol of the band and the new album. There is a nice cohesiveness between all of the images used and the songs and feel of the album.”

The second and third place record covers were both specifically designed for their purpose, with the designers creating something concrete out of the musicians’ visions.

Paul Jackson, the designer of the cover to ‘Repent Replenish Repeat’ by Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip explains the thoughts behind the design: “The animals represent each artist, Scroobius Pip is the lion and Dan Le Sac is the panda. These are their favourite animals. They wanted to use them in some way but weren’t entirely sure how so I came up with the idea of them vomiting up a whole world of stuff – essentially representing what Scroobius Pip does – vomits words and ideas into a microphone. The idea seemed visually arresting and interesting enough to turn heads – which to me is what a good album cover does.”

Leif Podhajsky explains the process of creating the abstract design of Bonobo’s record cover, which was voted the public’s third favourite cover in Best Art Vinyl 2013: “We actually started off down the more traditional ‘clean photo’ route which you see on Bonobo’s previous release, I snuck some more abstract ideas in which I thought could really fit the mood of the album which Simon responded to. We had a chat about how he saw the album and the ideas he was exploring. We really wanted the album and singles to have a common thread which tied them all together.”

The award, founded to celebrate the best in art, photography and graphic design in modern music culture, shortlists 50 record covers in the search for the most creative and well-designed record cover of the year. The winning designs are decided by public vote. In its ninth year, nominations for Best Art Vinyl 2013 included artwork by designers such as Damien Hirst and Vanessa da Silva among records by musicians like Elton John and Paul McCartney.

The nominations and winners are on display through exhibitions in Malmaison hotels in Birmingham, London and Oxford until 31 January 2014. www.malmaison.com