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Secret 7"

London's charity art auction and its exhibition of specially designed 7" record sleeves

by Gavin Lucas in Culture on 11 April 2013

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Opening in London tonight, 11 April, Secret 7" is a charity art project which sees hundreds of artists—including the likes of Ai Weiwei and Gilbert & George—exhibit one-off, specially designed 7" record sleeves that will be sold to raise money for the charity Art Against Knives.

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Now in its second year (in 2012 the project raised an impressive £33.5K for charity) and the brainchild of Kevin King of Universal Music, here's how Secret 7" works: seven tracks by seven well-loved musicians and bands are each pressed 100 times to vinyl by The Vinyl Factory. Then image makers from around the world are invited to create a one-off design to adorn the sleeve of one of the 700 7" record sleeves.

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The resulting 700 individually designed record sleeves, created by more than 500 contributing artists, will be exhibited for a week at Downstairs At Mother in Shoreditch, and then, fittingly, on Record Store Day (April 20), the artwork will go on sale, with each piece sold blind (meaning you won't know who created which sleeve or even what song is pressed on the vinyl within until after you've bought it) at £40 a pop. Think of it as a kind of music-and-art lottery!

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The seven tracks pressed up specially for the project are Elton John's "Bennie & The Jets," "Better Off" by Haim, "Still Love Me" by Jessie Ware, "The Beast" by Laura Marling, "The Don" by Nas, Nick Drake's "Rider On The Wheel" and Public Enemy's "Harder Than You Think." In addition to the aforementioned artists, other contributors creating sleeves include David Shrigley, Greg Eason, Marion Deuchars, Rose Blake, Pete Fowler, and Brecht Vandenbroucke—some have hand drawn their designs, others have screen printed theirs, and some have even made three dimensional packages out of unusual materials.

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The show is open to the public this weekend on 13 and 14 April. Then the following weekend (20 and 21 April), the records will be available to buy on a first come, first served basis. In the week in between Secret 7" is running events including a series of informal sessions by music label Universal aimed, King says, "purely at the young people that the charity Art Against Knives support as an opportunity for those of them interested in working in and around the music industry to pose questions to people already in amongst it." In effect, the sessions will give youngsters the chance to meet and quiz radio show hosts, A&R folk and artists such as Dizzee Rascal.

If you can't wait for or can't attend the exhibition, you can check out the online gallery of sleeve artwork on the dedicated Secret 7" website. As well as being sold in the London gallery space, the Secret 7" records will soon be available to buy online at Art Against Knives. You can also check out the record pressing in action at The Vinyl Factory in the teaser film accompanying this year's project.

Images courtesy Secret 7"

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