In David Bowie’s universe, sound has always been as important as vision. And for his new album in 10 years it couldn’t be otherwise. This time, in an exercise of photographic appropiationism–the movement which defends that creation does no longer imply producing a new work of art, but retrieving and giving new meaning to an existing one–, artist Jonathan Banbrook, the album’s art director, has looked into Bowie’s archive and amongst all its imagery has chosen Masayoshi Sukita’s popular photography for one of Bowie’s best records, Heroes, to which he has added a simple white square with the title of the new album on an equally simple typography.
And as it usually happens with any artistic decision with great conceptual implications, many have reacted as before Malevich’s White on White square, by wondering “what on earth is that?”
For Bowie, quite used to controversy during his career, this might not come as a surprise, but Jonathan Banbrook has thought it best to give some explanations as to why he decided to produce this artwork and has posted them on his personal blog:
“We know it is only an album cover with a white square on it but often in design it can be a long journey to get at something quite simple which works and that simplicity can work on many levels –often the most simple ideas can be the most radical. We understand that many would have preferred a nice new picture of Bowie but we believed that would be far less interesting and not acknowledge many of the things we have tried to discuss by doing this design. Finally we would like to give David Bowie great credit, he simply did what he always does which is to go with a radical idea and that takes courage and intelligence. That is why we love his music and love working for him.”
Long live the Thin White Duke!