In Focus: The artwork that helped define one of Radiohead’s defining albums

A series of paintings by Stanley Donwood, the artist who produced what is arguably Radiohead's most famous album cover, are up for auction via Christie's. Annunciata Elwes takes a look.

Radiohead fans will be very excited to see six works by Stanley Donwood, who has collaborated with the band since 1996, in an exhibition at Christie’s, King Street, SW1, next month, alongside drawings, lyrics and digital art by both Mr Donwood and frontman Thom Yorke. These dystopian landscapes are closely related to cover and sleeve art for 2000 album Kid A and will go under the hammer as part of the First Open: Post-war and Contemporary Art sale on October 5–19 (£10,000–£15,000 each).

‘Very late one night, Thom and I were alone in the vast wastes of Oxfordshire, surrounded by darkness and trying to finish the artwork,’ remembers Mr Donwood.

‘It was impossible… We had lots of versions… so we took them all downstairs and used tape to stick them to the cupboards and the fridge in the kitchen, hoping that in the morning the right cover and the right title would be obvious. And it was, and it was called Kid A.’

‘Hole’ by Stanley Donwood. Credit: Stanley Donwood / Christie’s

‘Stanley always viewed the record shop as an art gallery for the masses and he and Thom undertook an Odyssean feat in developing Kid A’s art, utilising drawing, collage and groundbreaking new media,’ explains James Elwes, founder of TIN MAN ART, which represents Mr Donwood.

‘At the centre of this process is Stanley’s extraordinary series of paintings — pieces that speak of enlightenment and discord in an uncertain new millennium under a government falling apart. Although the paintings’ tone recalls YBA sensibilities, their skill ensures a certain timelessness. These are works whose meaning continues to quietly ripple — pieces of history with an evocative soundtrack.’

‘How to disappear completely: Stanley Donwood x Thom Yorke’ runs from from October 9–15—  see www.christies.com for more details.

The ultimate cover of Radiohead’s Kid A.