We Buy White Albums

For the past eight years, US artist Rutherford Chang has been collecting first edition pressings of the Beatles’ 1968 White Album. His collection is now on display at FACT in Liverpool until mid-September…

For the past eight years, US artist Rutherford Chang has been collecting first edition pressings of the Beatles’ 1968 White Album. His collection is now on display at FACT in Liverpool until mid-September…

Chang has bought more than 1,000 copies of the White Album so far. The collection was first shown at New York’s Recess gallery last year but it has since almost doubled in size, with most purchased online or in second hand record shops for just a few dollars.

Released in 1968, the White Album was the Beatles’ ninth and its cover was designed by Richard Hamilton. The minimal look was a reductive reaction to the colourful sleeve for Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and featured the band’s name in simple black type against a white background. Each first edition was also embossed with a serial number.

At FACT’s loading bay space, albums are arranged in boxes as they would be in a record store, with visitors are invited to browse and listen to them. The exhibition also features a 96-minute LP which Chang created by overlaying 100 copies of the disc to reveal the crackles and imperfections in each.

As Chang’s collection demonstrates, Hamilton’s design acted as a blank canvas for owners to draw and doodle on: the exhibition includes sleeves covered in lipstick marks, signatures, declarations of love for Paul McCartney and hand drawn portraits of the band.

Most are tattered and yellowed with age, some have been repaired with sellotape and others feature mould and mildew marks. The collection also features an album covered in peace signs and another in images of food products.

The show provides a fascinating look at an iconic piece of album art and the cultural significance of the Beatles. As Chang notes, each has a different story to tell but together, “this collection of identical yet unique multiples forms a story of the past half-century.”

Copies on display aren’t for sale but Chang is hoping to add to his collection while in the UK and has invited anyone who has a first edition they’d like to sell to bring it to the gallery, whatever its condition.

We Buy White Albums is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11am-6pm at FACT, 88 Wood Street, Liverpool L1 4DQ until September 14. For details, see fact.co.uk

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