Bryan Ferry’s cover stories

Roxy Music front man exhibits his album art in Dubai

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Al Quoz art space Salsali Private Museum has been turning its focus to slightly offbeat exhibitions of late. The museum recently displayed covers of Iranian vinyl records from the ’60s and ’70s to draw attention to
an alternative medium: graphic design. Following that theme, current exhibition ‘Olympia’ features album covers created and conceived by Roxy Music frontman and fine art graduate Bryan Ferry, whom Salsali Private Museum founder Ramin Salsali knows personally.

‘I’ve known Bryan Ferry for years as a singer and artist. Then I had the pleasure to meet him and his family personally through a mutual friend,’ he says. ‘It has been an honour to introduce Bryan Ferry to the younger generation in the Middle East.’

The show, which continues until Thursday February 28, features iconic album covers in which Ferry has been involved, including one of Kate Moss shot by photographer Adam Whitehead. The works, which have already shown in London, Paris, Berlin, Oslo and Los Angeles, give a unique insight into Ferry’s creativity. We asked the man himself for the lowdown.

Have you always been interested in art as well as music?
Yes, I studied fine art at university, and art has been a very important part of my life ever since.

What can we see in the exhibition?
All the Roxy Music album cover art plus a selection of artwork from my solo albums, although the main focus is the Kate Moss portfolio of photographs from the album Olympia. There were several photographers and stylists involved over this period [from 1972 to the present].

How much creative direction did you have in the album covers featured in the show?
I come up with the basic idea for each shoot, and supervise the art direction, typography, layout and so on. I’ve always been very hands on with the visual aspects of my career, both in Roxy Music and as a solo artist.

What is involved in developing an album cover?
Once the music is finished, I try to envisage what would encapsulate the mood and feeling of the record. As with the making of the music, the cover art is a team effort, and I always try to work with good people. For the first Roxy Music cover I chose the image of a glamorous woman, and this became a recurring theme.

Why did you choose Kate Moss for the Olympia cover?
In mid-19th century Paris, French painter Edouard Manet exhibited his ‘Olympia’ painting, which was quite a scandal at the time. We wanted to continue this tradition. Having usually used undiscovered models for the previous covers, this time we thought it would be appropriate to have someone with a strong history and an element of notoriety. Kate is one of the great iconic faces of our age, as glamorous as she is controversial.

Which is your favourite cover?
I’m still very fond of the first Roxy Music cover, which started it all.

Which photographer did you enjoy working with most?
The early photographs we did with Karl Stoecker and Eric Boman were done on a shoestring budget, and were very simple affairs. The most recent pictures with Adam Whitehead involved a huge team of assistants and high technology. So, both ways of working are interesting to me.

The Lowdown

Exhibition: ‘Olympia by Bryan Ferry’ until February 28 at Salsali Private Museum, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 380 9600).
Artists: Bryan Ferry, Adam Whitehead, various.
Price of works: From Dhs7,345.

Manifesto (1979)
‘This was shot by Neil Kirk. I thought it would be cool to create a party using shop window mannequins instead of people. We ended up putting two real people at the back, just for fun.’

For Your Pleasure (1973)
‘Karl Stoecker and Antony Price shot this. We wanted to create an urban, futuristic yet glamorous situation: we used a beautiful Cadillac Eldorado placed in front of a backdrop of Las Vegas. The main job is finding a balance between the image and the information – using the right typography is very important.’

Olympia (2010)
‘Adam Whitehead shot this. It took a long time to develop, but once I decided on the title of the record, the rest all slotted into place. I remember my dog – a border terrier – was on set making friends with everyone.’

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