The Best Art Vinyl Award is the annual search for the most creative and well-designed record cover of the year. These pages include an archive of past winners and all 50 nominations from each year.
Congratulations to the Best Art Vinyl 2023 Award Winners!
1st Artwork by Michelle Henning for PJ Harvey’s album ‘I Inside the Old year Dying’
2nd Photography by Melodie McDaniel for Gabriel’s album ‘Angels and Queen Part 2’
3rd Design by Mat Maitland of Big Active Design for Sub Focus’ album ‘Evolve’
The expert judging panel awarded first place to artist and University Professor, Michelle Henning for her work on PJ Harvey’s album ‘I Inside the Old Year Dying’. Henning received the coveted prize created by our friends at Vinylize Eyewear at a presentation event held at The Hari in Belgravia, London.
The winning album artwork was chosen from a musically and artistically diverse shortlist of 50 nominations of the very best in vinyl record cover art from 2023, picked by a panel of illustrious artists, designers and music industry experts (listed below).
All 50 nominees form a striking art installation in the window of the Hari, London from 6th-28th January 2024.
The first place artwork is a seemingly simple cover design for PJ Harvey’s tenth studio album I Inside the Old Year Dying by Michelle Henning that, in fact, couldn’t be less so. The final image is actually a result of months of preparation, awaiting perfect weather conditions and a combination of multiple photographs and techniques. Michelle Henning says, “…I had a sudden realisation that I didn’t need a whole forest, I just needed one stick and such a simple single object would give it the feel of the classic album covers I admire. Now I realise an unconscious influence was Polly herself, because she had chosen to use drawings she had made of single twigs (“twiddicks”), to break up the sections in her poetry book Orlam.”
Read the whole creative process story for ‘I Inside the Old year Dying’ on our blog series HERE
Second place is the artwork for part two of the debut studio album by US soul trio Gabriels, Angels & Queens. The first part was released in September 2022 and was shortlisted for Best Art Vinyl 2022. Part II was released in July 2023 and both covers use the striking black and white baptismal concept photography by Melodie McDaniel. With an impressive portfolio of music photography including Smashing Pumpkins, Cat Power, Pharrell Williams and Rihanna plus directing music videos for Madonna, The Cranberries, Patti Smith and more, McDaniel says her greatest passion is “documenting human stories and finding and highlighting interesting subjects.” Thus the baptism concept for the shoot immediately appealed to her and she says, “It felt appropriate to focus on lead singer Jacob Lusk, considering his fronting role in the band and he also has a strong religious background. We contemplated using a church baptismal font or bathtub, but I was really drawn to the idea of having it outside. In my mind, I envisioned capturing a river baptism would be the most powerful and evoke the feelings and culture of the South.”
In third place is English DJ, record producer and musician Nicolaas Douwma aka Sub Focus and his fourth album ‘Evolve’ which was created by Mat Maitland from the creative consultancy Big Active. Big Active already has a rich history with Sub Focus having worked on three previous albums with him – ‘Portals’, ‘Reworks I’ and ‘Torus’. This album artwork used the image of the Nudibranchs sea mollusc to create a lenticular LP format where the images animate and evolve in front of your eyes. The five separate re-rendered images were created through GAN machine learning technology to create the cover artwork’s ‘morph’ effect. Mat explains, “Aesthetically we didn’t want to just use straight documentary images of Nudibranchs, so we had some decisions to make in how to present the concept. I had been working on a personal project the previous year with digital artist Claudia Rafael and felt that she would be a great collaborator in elevating how the forms were depicted. After collating a huge bank of imagery we decided to remove any sense of environment, instead having them live in a void of darkness to elevate their impact but also remove any concept of scale…”
Read the whole creative process story for ‘Evolve’ on our blog series HERE
Best Art Vinyl founder, Andrew Heeps comments, ‘Simplicity and thoughtful concept provide the many layers for this year’s Best Art Vinyl Award winners. We have three very different designs, all of which deserve greater artistic scrutiny this year. While the winning album artwork for PJ Harvey and runner up Gabriels focus on the single iconic image with multiple conceptual layers, third place Sub Focus uses an evolving single image via a lenticular design. Each of these worthy winners bringing levels of artistic complexity and techniques together to bring the music inside their beautiful packages to life.”
This is the 19th winner of the Best Art Vinyl Award, the unique contemporary art prize that celebrates record cover design by compiling the best in art, photography and graphic design in modern music culture. Best Art Vinyl 2023 winners join an impressive Art Vinyl archive of celebrated visual artists. Notably including the Hipgnosis design studio, legendary classical Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel, as well as the many unknown, unsung heroes of the music industry, who use design to create modern-day visual icons. Full Archives Here.
The 50 nominated Best Art Vinyl 2023 records with designer credits can be viewed at HERE
With thanks to our Best Art Vinyl 2023 Judging Panel:
- Alison Fielding, Head of Creative at Beggars Group
- Andrew Heeps, Founder of Art Vinyl
- Bill Smith, Sleeve Designer and Author of Cover Stories: Five decades of Album Art – cover art credits include The Jam, Genesis and Kate Bush
- Gerard Saint, Senior Partner of Big Active – cover art credits include Michael Jackson, Goldfrapp and Elton John. Best Art Vinyl 2013 winner for White Lies – ‘Big TV’
- Matthew Cooper, mrcooper – cover art credits include Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Noel Gallagher. Best Art Vinyl 2016 winner for Last Shadow Puppets – ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’
- Paul Holbrook-Phillips, True Spilt Milk Designs – artwork credits include work for Lightning Bolt, Mastiff, and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Best Art Vinyl 2021 winner for Villagers ‘Fever Dreams’
- Rob O’Connor, Stylorouge Creative Consultants – cover art credits include Blur, Squeeze,
- Simon Monk, simonmonk.com – Winner of Best Art Vinyl 2022 for Black Country New Road ‘Ants From Up Here’
Wednesday 29th Nov – Friday 1st Dec Best Art Vinyl 2023 Nominations Exhibition at The Quarterhouse, Folkestone
Saturday 6th January – Sunday 28th January 2023 Best Art Vinyl 2023 Nominations Installation at The Hari London, Belgravia
Thursday 11th January 2024: Best Art Vinyl 2023 Winners will be announced at The Hari London Belgravia