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True album cover art

What does the future of the album cover hold in times when the physical carriers of music are being phased out? Will it survive the digital revolution? The covers are certainly in for a thrilling transformation as artists face new challenges in their effort to ensure that the visual arts continue to reach audiences alongside music. Konkurs 30/30 (the 30/30 Contest) aims to chronicle such developments and become a depositary of cover art. Poznań is honoured with its choice as the event's venue.

this year's final thirty album covers in the 30/30 Contest
this year's final thirty album covers in the 30/30 Contest

Up until the end of the 19th century, the only way to experience music was to hear it live. It was then, owing to the creative genius of Thomas Edison, that the first physical carrier was invented. Ebonite cylinders, and later discs, were used to capture pioneer recordings, which were then enclosed in jukeboxes. The 20th century saw the first phonograph records that more closely resembled the vinyls we know today. Recorded and reproduced for the first time, music made it to shops, packed initially in ordinary industrial wrapping paper. It was not until the late 1940s that Alex Steinweiss managed to convince the heads of Columbia Records to invest in "pictures on the dust jacket." The first album to sport true cover art was a musical compilation by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The next revolution followed in the 1960s. It was then that album sleeve became works of art in their own right, often exceeding beyond their original intended purpose. Bob Cato (the author of covers for Bob Dylan among others), Peter Blake (The Beatles) and Andy Warhol (Velvet Underground) forever changed the perception of music and elevated the album cover to the rank of a new art genre. 

The list of top album cover artists features prominently a Poznań native. That artist was Rosław Szaybo, who created hundreds of works for the world's greatest music stars, ranging from Elton John, The Clash, Cream, Judas Priest, Carlos Santana, Roy Orbison and Janis Joplin to the covers of the unforgettable Czesław Niemen and Krzysztof Komeda, as well as the outstanding Polish Jazz series that has gained worldwide acclaim. 

Szaybo, who passed away a year ago, left behind a Poznań event, of which he was the initiator and co-author. The 30/30 Contest for the best album cover of the year has just come to its sixth edition. Every year, the event draws dozens of artists and the most interesting cover artwork submissions. 30 of them make up the post-contest exhibition, which for the second time now will take place in the Courtyard Gallery of the Old Brewery. This year, the artwork will be on view from 27 March, culminating in the grand finale with the announcement of winners during the Poznań Spring Break festival on 26 April. 

This year's 30/30 Contest, organised by Wydawnictwo Posnania (the Posnania Publishing House) has seen over a hundred covers. Its jury includes representatives of contemporary album sleeve art, among them Rafał Wechterowicz of Poznań and Grzegorz "Forin" Piwnicki, winner of last year's contest.

Michał Wiraszko

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

  • Exhibition of the 30/30 Contest for best album cover art of 2019
  • Galeria na Dziedzińcu (Courtyard Gallery) of Stary Browar (the Old Brewery)
  • 13. July - 31. August
  • Free admission

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2020