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Thompson Hotels London Influencers X Andrew Heeps


Andrew Heeps is the founder of The Best Art Vinyl Awards, an annual event showcasing the best in vinyl art sleeve artwork. Now in it’s tenth year, The Best Art Vinyl nominations 2015 were chosen by a panel of highly respected music industry design experts and previous winners including Muse, Klaxons and Fleet Foxes.

The winners were announced on January 7th 2016 at Belgraves London followed by an incredible installation of the nominees in the front window of our hotel.

We caught up with Andrew, who runs Best Art Vinyl Awards and Art Vinyl  to talk design trends, British patriotism, art, David Bowie, and more. 

Congratulations on the 10 year anniversary of Best Art Vinyl, what was it about this year’s winner, David Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock, that stood out from the rest of the nominees?

Ultimately it was the voting public that see ‘Rattle That Lock’ as a stand out sleeve design. From my perspective and having some insight into the back story, its real credit to the creative director Dave Stansbie in visually capturing the atmosphere that David Gilmour’s music creates.

What does the judging panel look for in great vinyl art?

Our nomination judges were all previous winners of the Best Art Vinyl Award so I imagine it’s a sense of originality that appeals to most creatives. The album sleeve now has over 60 years of history and to create something original on that 12”x12” canvas is the challenge. And also the ‘client’ must ultimately see their musical vision represented in a visual form that will always be associated with that particular record.

How has vinyl art changed since you started Best Art Vinyl in 2005? Is it trend led?

There are graphic trends for sure just like in fashion, notably back in 2014 we saw numerous sleeves which featured multiple layered images. Another recent trend has been the removal of the artists name or album title from the cover so the whole sleeve is given over to a striking image. This effect is achieved by putting the titles on the shrink wrap (to identify the record when purchasing) which then gets removed when the record is opened and actually played. 

How would vinyl art affect your decision to listen to music from an artist you don’t know?

It would effect me in as much as if the sleeve was great I would buy it just for the artwork and then if the music’s good that’s a bonus.

What we have in effect created with our Flip Frame design is a means by which you can celebrate affordable art through vinyl records. If these were just great pieces of stand alone art for say £20($30) we would accept that as great value already but to also include music, that’s exceptionally good value.

The winner was announced earlier this year at Belgraves in London alongside an exhibition that will also travel to Bologna, Budapest and Munich; do different cities respond differently to the art? Or are there universal favourites?

From our experience thus far, our previous exhibitions in Budapest are really well received but that maybe says a lot about this vibrant city. In Bologna for example we actually run a dedicated Best Art Vinyl Award just for Italian records. The standards are amazing and going forward we would love to do more regional Best Art Vinyl Awards so each nation can celebrate their art and music in this way. Ultimately Best Art Vinyl is providing a historical archive into art and design for music but as far as Universal favourite gos, nostalgia will always bring up the classics like Sticky Fingers and Dark Side of the Moon but what we are doing is hopefully celebrating the contemporary vinyl records and keeping this type of artwork very much alive. 

The UK has an illustrious music and design history and this year’s winning designer The Creative Corporation and artist David Gilmour are both British. What was the vibe at Belgraves when the announcement was made, particularly patriotic?

The Atmosphere this year was amazing, for the first time so many talented artists and designers were all together in one place, socialising and discussing how they loved each others work. Britain and notably London will always have very strong associations with record covers (Think Pink Floyd and Battersea Power Station) but this year we had nominated designers attend the awards from Norway and the US but in the past our winners have also  been from as far a field as Australia.

The installation at Belgraves is really eye catching, how did you go about curating the vinyls for this display?

Ultimately the installation is all 50 Best Art Vinyl nominees (minus 2 as it didn’t work as a grid). What we had to deliver was a striking mosaic of 24 records on each side that delivered the wow factor. Each 1 of those sleeves has a wow factor in its own right, so when putting them together in a grid, I tried to theme as best I could to give the piece its own individuality but collectively a celebration of real talent.

Vinyl collecting has always been popular, are major record labels responding to this and putting out more music on vinyl? If so, why?

The Best Art Vinyl Award celebrates work from the major record labels and the independents and that’s how it should be. Although the budgets might be very different, I would like to think the same passion is there behind most of these sleeves. What I however find very touching is the award is so unique a small Independent record label can have their work celebrated side by side with the giants of the music industry.

Art Vinyl’s frames position vinyl sleeves as affordable works of art. What’s your take on this relationship between music, art & design?

If you think about it, the world of exciting works of art and design are so accessible to anyone. There must be millions upon millions of great sleeves out there from over 60 years to choose from and that doesn’t even include the inner sleeves and reverse sides as well.

What we have tried to communicate, is that with our Flip Frames, that relationship with the record can be exceedingly personal. As most of our customers have 3 frames, no display is ever likely to be the same as it allows the owner to also be quite creative and curate their own wall of vinyl art in their own home.  I know for a fact, our frames can cause a few rows amongst couples as to what is displayed but that’s the whole point, they can change daily.

Finally, what are your 3 favourite vinyl sleeve covers of all time?

I’m writing this just after the passing of David Bowie, possibly Britain’s greatest contributor to art and music from recent years. There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to his records but a personal favourite would be the 12” single of ‘John I’m Only Dancing’. That’s as cool as anyone can look!