A new exhibition from the Cranbrook Art Museum featuring vinyl album covers designed by famous artists is now on digital display.
“For the Record: Artists on Vinyl” features work from the likes of Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, who designed album covers for bands like the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and The Smiths.
Click on the player above to hear how Cranbrook is adapting to the pandemic with virtual exhibition.
There’s also work from artists like Banksy and Robert Motherwell in the exhibition as well as Keith Harring — a well known street artist during New York City’s graffiti golden age in the 1970s and 1980s who was floating in the same musical circles as an artist like disco star Sylvester, who he designed an album cover for for the song “Someone Like You.”
“There are a lot of famous artists who have done album designs for different reasons,” says Andrew Blauvelt, director of the Cranbrook Art Museum. “Many of those artists were in our collection.”
The Cranbrook Art Museum doesn’t have permanent galleries showing off their collections like many museums. Instead, each gallery rotates through different exhibitions.
“We were thinking [virtual exhibitions are] something we can transition to in a couple years, but the reality is that that transition needs to be much faster.” — Andrew Blauvelt, Cranbrook Art Museum
But with COVID-19 disrupting museum budgets across the country and physically closing off the institution to patrons, Blauvelt says highlighting archives they already have available to them will help reduce costs moving forward as concerns about less corporate sponsorship in the future start to grow.
“We were thinking this is something we can transition to in a couple years, but the reality is that that transition needs to be much faster,” Blauvelt says. “But the fortunate thing is that we’ve been thinking about that.”
New Methods of Support
In fact, some of the moves the Cranbrook Art Museum was making last year has put them in a better position during this global pandemic. Blauvelt says that last fall, they started using the same walkthrough technology to document their exhibitions as real estate agents use to do a virtual open house.
But Blauvelt cautions that digital innovations can only help support museums like Cranbrook for so long, citing the fact that many virtual opportunity are expected to come at no charge.
“It’s a little easier to navigate around [financial] shortfalls for some institutions rather than others.”
“A lot of galleries are doing invitation, subscriber-based model for information but they’re just trying to maintain engagement, which is the best thing you can do for online,” Blauvelt says. But “there’s no real model that you can bank on for earned revenue off of online experiences like that.”
At museums in New York City, budgets have been slashed and furloughs ordered for staff at institutions like the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to name a few because admissions are a huge part of their bottom lines.
But Blauvelt says metro Detroit museums are not structured the same way, relying more on individual donors and corporate patrons to fund their exhibitions and public projects.
“The models in Detroit are a little bit different because a lot of museums are actually free here except for temporary exhibitions, which doesn’t mean there’s no impact, it just means that instead of 40 or 50 percent of revenue, it’s maybe like 20. It’s a little easier to navigate around those shortfalls for some institutions rather than others.”
In the meantime, the Cranbrook Art Museum will be searching its own backyard for stories to tell in its digital galleries.