Last Sunday, 14th March, marked the 63rd Grammy Awards ceremony; a glamorous and prestigious event that celebrates the power of music and the very best within the music industry. This year's awards were as historic as ever, with Beyoncé breaking the record for the most Grammy Awards won by a female artist and Harry Styles, winning his first ever award.
With both music and art being an integral part of culture and a reflection of attitudes during respective eras, they naturally have a long and intertwined history. From street art and the emerging hip hop scene of 1980s New York, to Basquiat’s love of jazz, musical genres have always played a part in influencing artists and their work. With this in mind and in honour of this year’s Grammy Awards, we take a look at eight artists and how their work has been influenced by music.
The artistic duo, The Connor Brothers, often use musicians as their muse. In 2020, the pair released Better Lonely Alone Than Lonely With You, featuring an image of DJ and influencer, Ashley James. The limited edition print is rendered in cool tones and is finished with The Connor Brothers’ classic pithy text.
Throughout their career, the artistic duo has collaborated with a number of musicians for charitable causes. In 2018, The Connor Brothers partnered with British rapper, Professor Green, in aid of CALM, a UK based mental health charity.
More recently and launching officially tomorrow, The Connor Brothers have also teamed up with popular British musician, Noel Gallagher, to release a limited edition print in an effort to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust, continuing their philanthropic efforts within the music industry and beyond.
On the topic of music, Condo reportedly stated that ‘music is such a huge part of my life, without it I don’t know if I'd ever have painted anything’. Condo takes direct inspiration from music when creating his surrealist canvases and lets sound guide his unique use of colour, shape and form.
Condo’s work is not only inspired by music but has also been used in direct relation to musical releases, with the artist designing and creating album artwork for several musicians. In 2010, for example, Condo created five different album covers for Kanye West’s fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which went on to become a triple platinum selling record.
Haring, like Condo, also turned his hand to creating album artworks for some of the greatest musicians of his time. In 1983, Haring created a record cover for David Bowie’sWithout You and in that same year, the artist also created an album cover for hip hop group, Run DMC.
Thanks to his romantic relationship with DJ Juan Dubose, his friendships with people in the club scene and the recording industry, Haring was constantly exposed to new music and cited it as a great inspiration. Listening to a range of everything from hip hop and reggae to classical and Top 40 chart music, Haring would not travel anywhere without a selection of tape compilations. Reportedly listening to blaring music while painting his murals, there is no doubt that Haring’s eclectic music taste influenced his vibrant style.
A contemporary to Haring, Basquiat was equally influenced by the eclectic music scene of 1980s New York City. Throughout his extremely short lifetime, Basquiat amassed a collection of more than 3,000 albums. Spanning a multitude of genres including blues, soul, disco, hip hop and jazz, Basquiat enjoyed music so much that he even created his own, forming an experimental band called Gray.
With the group themselves reportedly describing Gray’s music as ‘ignorant, incomplete and oddly beautiful’, the four members of the American band noted that their music was carelessly rendered on purpose to capture the alternative nature of music from that era. Basquiat’s care-free alternative approach to creation is evident in his art as well as music. With loose form and dynamic strokes, Basquiat’s paintings prove that an effective artwork does not rely upon meticulous planning.
With a diverse roster of fans from the music industry including Elton John, George Michael and Ed Sheeran, Harland Miller’s work is incredibly popular amongst musicians. At first glance, Miller’s work does not seem to boast an obvious connection to music, and yet with further inspection, it becomes clear.
During the auction of George Michael’s estate at Christie’s in 2019, two Harland Miller’s were sold, including Death, What’s In It For Me? Following the sale of the late singer’s estate, art critic Martin Herbet wrote that musicians undoubtedly love Miller’s work as ‘his art continues working, when the viewer is not in front of it. It runs through one’s head like music does’. Packed with the joy and vibrancy of music, Miller’s work can be interpreted as a visual song.
From a young age, Terry O’Neill had an aspiration to be a jazz percussionist and it was only on his path to pursing this goal that O’Neill incidentally picked up a camera. Working as an airport photographer in the hopes of realising his musical dream and with free flights to New York, O’Neill discovered his talent for photography and pursued a career in camerawork instead.
Although O’Neill never realised his dream of playing the drums professionally, the photographer’s career would be entwined with the music business forever more and see him photograph some of the industry’s biggest names. From Elton John and David Bowie to The Beatles and Amy Winehouse, O’Neill has captured some of the greatest star’s music has ever known.
Avidly collected by across the globe, KAWS creates work that is adored by musicians internationally. Created at the intersection of pop and graffiti, KAWS boasts a host of celebrity fans from the music business including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Pharrell Williams and possibly even Justin Bieber – who is rumoured to be the anonymous buyer behind KAWS’ record-setting sale at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2019.
KAWS’ work is so intertwined with the music industry that in 2013, KAWS redesigned the MTV Video Music Awards famous Moonman trophy in the form of his Companion character. This marked the first redesign of the iconic music award in its 30-year history. That same year, the award ceremony took place in KAWS’ hometown of Brooklyn in New York and featured a 60-foot inflatable version of KAWS’ design.
Inspired by music and lyrics as well as the distinctive characteristics of iconic musicians, Coco Davez’s faceless portraits pay homage to some of music’s most celebrated identities. With an expressive use of colour and the utilisation of the sitter’s most distinctive attributes, Davez’s pop-infused work captures the spirit of the subject in a way realistic oil painting could not.
Rendering portraits of Prince, Elton John and The Beatles, to name just a few, each specific canvas perfectly embodies the essence of its musical subject. With Prince’s Oscar-winning album Purple Rain becoming the crowning jewel of his career, Davez’s periwinkle palette is the perfect nod to the artist’s successful career.