The show celebrates one of the most important bands of the last two decades, and will present over 70 images of Blur by music photographers, designers and artists including Pennie Smith, Kevin Cummins, Paul Postle, Tom Sheehan, Banksy and Julian Opie from the band’s 21-year career, including previously unseen artwork.
Starting life as Seymour in 1988, taking their name from a JD Salinger story, the band became Blur on signing to record label Food in 1990.
The next 20 or so years has seen the band deliver some of the most forward thinking and innovative pop music of the time – with brave, diverse artwork to match. Back in January we spoke to Rob O’Connor, founder of design consultancy Stylorouge.
The consultancy designed much of Blur’s early artwork, including the pop-art-meets-British-seaside works for debut album Leisure and the deceptively wistful, romantic images for Girls & Boys, a sarcastic beer-soaked anthem of Brits abroad, ‘paranoid’ love in the 90s and the consequential ‘nasty blisters’.
Stylorouge’s Blur work catalysed the emergence of the band logo – something that had hitherto had nowhere near the prominence it does today. Back in January, O’Connor said, ‘Bands weren’t really into logos at that point – or so it seemed to me, anyway – it was almost deemed a bit naff in the early 90s, so it was good to have David Balfe [Blur’s then-label Food’s founder] as he was really into having a memorable brand and a good t-shirt to sell.’
Since then, Blur’s artwork has used covers by artists including Julian Opie, who created the Blur: The Best Of compilation cover, and Banksy, who worked on 2003 album Think Tank.
Guitarist Graham Coxon painted the haunting artwork shown on the cover of 1999’s bleakly beautiful album 13; while Damien Hirst famously directed the bright, kitsch and somewhat uncomfortable video for Country House, which sees Coxon looking decidedly awkward and soapy in a bathtub.
Back with two new singles, Under the Westway and The Puritan, a sold-out Hyde Park show next month and this exhibition, it looks like modern life might not be so rubbish for Blur after all.