February 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Collecting the White Album

Surely there is a comparison to be made between vinyl records and fine books -- not just that they are collectible and highly coveted by a select group, but that after a certain amount of bantering about the death of the medium (record or book), the medium experiences a resurgence.

New-WE-BUY-WHITE-ALBUMS-web1.jpgBut here's another similarity: vinyl as art and vinyl on exhibition. Rutherford Chang is a NYC-based artist who collects first pressings of The Beatles' White Album. In We Buy White Albums, an exhibit running through March 9 at Recess Art in Soho, Chang's collection is set up like a record shop, showing off 693 first pressings of the iconic record. But the twist is, he's not selling them; in fact, he's buying them if anyone has an original pressing to offer. According to the press release, "[Chang] considers the serialized first-press, an edition running in excess of 3 million, to be the ultimate collector's item, and aims to amass as many copies as possible."

The album covers in the exhibit have become works of art--bearing the ownership marks of their previous owners. In an extensive Q&A at Dust & Grooves, an online magazine for vinyl collectors, Chang said he finds the "poorer condition albums more interesting ... The white canvases have been personalized with everything from scribbled names to elaborate paintings." His exhibit allows people to walk in and browse his collection of beat-up Beatles and to consider a place where music, art, and collecting converge.