Some of Stanley Donwood’s most recognisable Radiohead works are going on display at Christie’s London headquarters this October.
The show, curated by both Donwood and Thom Yorke, will feature six paintings from Radiohead’s seminal Kid A era, alongside drawings, lyrics and digital art from the pair. Donwood first began creating work for Radiohead in 1996, with his cover art for their album The Bends. He first met Yorke at Exeter University, where they became uni mates and creative collaborators from the jump, eventually becoming the band’s unofficial art director.
Titled How to Disappear Completely, the display at Christie’s will include a series of dystopian landscapes made from 1999 to 2001, and closely tie in with the final cover and sleeve art for Kid A—the making of which Donwood told us about in-depth, for his 2017 Guest Editor Issue of Monster Children:
‘We went to this crazy manor house somewhere in the Cotswolds, and I’m not entirely sure, but I think that it was owned by some upper-class English family that were a bit pally with Hitler. The band had the ground floor, and then the higher up in this house you went the more derelict it got, until there were these bizarre rooms, empty apart from a sink on the wall, a single chair, like a man’s chair piled up with 1950s newspapers, and then so many dead flies on the windowsills that it was thick with dead insects.’
‘Also, I went for a walk—beautiful Cotswolds you see, lovely, lovely, lovely. But not really, because there’s all these fields with these big wooden crosses, and dangling from the arms of the crosses are all these decaying birds strung up by their necks, just flapping in the wind. They’re weird, country people, I don’t know what they’re about really. So that fed into the Kid A artwork. I think I painted a few of these strange structures.’
‘After doing OK Computer I got fed up because you’re just sort of doing this [mimes looking at something and drawing] and I had this idea that your body holds loads of memories all over, so I wanted to do big gestural stuff. So Thom rented a place in an old warehouse in Bath afterwards, and we got a load of massive canvases and a load of paint brought in. And I hadn’t painted since I was doing A-level art or something. I didn’t paint when I was at college, because I was doing printmaking. I used to quite like painting, but I thought I’d get printing out the way first and then ended up staying there three years.’
‘Me and Thom were up all night making loads of covers for Kid A. But it wasn’t called Kid A. They all said “Radiohead” on them, but they all had different titles. I don’t know, 20, 30, 40 different covers with titles. And we sellotaped them all up on the wall in the kitchen and the studio, so in the morning when the band came in we just said, “Can you just go to the kitchen because, fuck, we’ve had enough.” And that’s how we ended up with Kid A. Typeface, artwork, title, everything. Like I say, it was a last-minute thing.’
How’s that for a scoop. You can check out the rest of his stories behind the making of Donwood’s most-loved Radiohead covers here, and make sure to check the exhibit out at Christie’s from 9 to 15 October 2021. Better yet—go buy one for yourself when they go on sale.