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Video: Sgt. Pepper and Alternative Ulster star in striking new exhibition of album artwork

Iconic Irish albums on display as part of a new exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Picture by Hugh Russell

FROM Led Zepplin's Houses of the Holy to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, some album covers are as iconic as the music itself.

Now a new exhibition at Belfast's Ulster Museum, The Art of Selling Songs, aims to celebrate some of the world’s greatest album covers and the artists behind them.

The complex inner sleeve for Sgt. Pepper, designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, and rare 19th century posters advertising French and British live ‘smoking concerts’ are among the album artworks, sleeve notes, programmes and signs which go on display today.

The exhibition, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is split into three parts: an 'A side' of artwork from music halls to pop, a 'B side' of more recent artwork, and a section on bands and musicians from across Ireland including Them, Stiff Little Fingers, Glen Hansard and Snow Patrol.

Anna Liesching, curator of art at National Museums NI speaks about the exhibition

The 'A' side room is painted bright pink with a silhouette of The Supremes on the wall while the 'B' side room is painted in yellow with The Velvet Underground's iconic banana artwork, designed by Andy Warhol, in the background.

Some of the more recent album artworks include a beautifully packaged CD of Spiritualised's 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, which is presented in a foil and plastic blister pack, as if it were a box of tablets, complete with an accompanying 'patient information' leaflet.

A new exhibition of album artwork at the Ulster Museum. Picture by Hugh Russell

The section on Irish music includes copies of Belfast punk band Stiff Little Fingers' Alternative Ulster and the 1966 album by Them (fronted by Van Morrison) called Them Again.

Anna Liesching, curator of art at National Museums NI, said she was delighted to help curate the Irish section of the exhibition.

"You couldn't have an exhibition here without looking at the Irish music scene so we really wanted to have this element and work with as many designers and local artists and musicians as possible to celebrate the music scene," she said.

Them's 1966 album Them Again on display as part of a new exhibition on music artwork at the Ulster Museum. Picture by Hugh Russell

"Gathering this exhibition was so much fun because we knew we had to have the big names - U2, Snow Patrol, the Undertones, the Outcasts - but once we started talking to designers who had worked on these artworks they were saying who they felt should be in the exhibition as well.

"Everybody you see in the exhibition has been suggested by 20 or 30 people who we have spoken to in the music scene."

She said the museum had been loaned some iconic albums.

Stiff Little Fingers' artwork for Alternative Ulster. Picture by Hugh Russell

"Getting the Horslips LP was really exciting," she said.

"For me it's also wonderful to have artists who are in our wider fine art collection represented through album work.

"So we have Colin Davidson's portrait of Glen Hansard which was used on his LP. Colin Davidson gave us his copy for the exhibition."

Catriona Gourlay, an assistant curator at the V&A, helped bring the exhibition to Belfast.

Catriona Gourlay, Assistant Curator at the V&A, and Kim Mawhinney, Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI, at a new exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Picture by Hugh Russell

"There is a big mix of different genres on display so you have pop, punk, jazz. There's something here for everybody," she said.

She added: "People are going to come along and have that real feeling of nostalgia to it."

"They can spot art that they remember and might have in their own collection at home so it's a really enjoyable exhibition and fun to bring along different members of the family to it," she said.

The exhibition is running until September 15.

The Moondogs' 1981 single Imposter. Picture by Hugh Russell

The museum is asking people to share their favourite album cover on Twitter using the hashtag #OvertonesUM

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