Secret 7” is a much-loved anonymous charity art project that has taken place at various venues across London since its launch in 2012. For each edition, the basic framework is the same: seven tracks, by seven different bands or solo artists, are each pressed 100 time onto 7” vinyl. People from all over the world, including some very famous names, are then invited to create unique artwork for the 700 sleeves. The resulting records are exhibited and sold, with the identity of each sleeve’s designer unknown until after the point of sale. Over the years, the great and the good from the worlds of art, music and design have participated, with the likes of Peter Blake, David Shrigley, Yoko Ono, Paul Smith and Martin Parr creating anonymous artwork.

The seventh and final edition of Secret 7” took place at NOW Gallery in autumn 2020, followed by a spin-off exhibition – Planar 1/1 – featuring specially embellished turntables, with both shows organised in support of the humanitarian aid charity Help Refugees. The Net Gallery created virtual walkthroughs for the two exhibitions, which remain available to view online. We caught up with the Secret 7” co-founder, Kevin King, to find out more about the long-running project.

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Exhibition view from Secret 7″ at NOW Gallery. Photo by Nina Manandhar.

The Net Gallery: How did the idea for the initiative first develop, and why do you think it’s continued to have such an enduring appeal?

Kevin King: There were two main inspirations back in 2011 when the idea was formed, the RCA Postcard sale and my desire to flex my creative muscles out of a research job I had at a record label at the time. Jordan Stokes ( Secret 7″ co-founder) and I put a lot of heart into the project, and I think that comes across to contributors and buyers of our records, those people have enjoyed watching it grow and develop over the years with the two of us as a constant driving force.

TNG: How have you gone about selecting the charities that have been supported through each edition?

KK: We sit down with a few charities before we kickstart the project, from those who’ve expressed an interest in us supporting them, to those we’ve approached directly. From there we just get a feeling for who we want to work with. This year’s charity Help Refugees are incredibly inspirational, having started from a hashtag and a call to action on Twitter, to become one of the biggest charities in that area in just a few years. Supporting the refugee crisis has always been vital, but with current events it’s a particularly timely and urgent cause right now.

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Sleeve artwork created for ‘This is a Call’ by Foo Fighters, on display at NOW Gallery. Photo by Nina Manandhar.

TNG: Secret 7” has been hosted by a number of different venues over the years, has that helped to give the exhibitions a fresh feel and character?

KK: Definitely. The concept has stayed the same all this time, but elements like the venue, the tracks, the visual artist and cause all change to keep it feeling different. The venue always impacts how the show looks. This year for example was the first time we’ve been able to form a long wall of sleeves with 350 on each side, something we’ve wanted to do from the start but never had the space.

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Secret 7″ 2020 at NOW Gallery. Photo by Charles Emerson.

TNG: What was the thinking behind extending the project this year to culminate with the Planar 1/1 exhibition and auction?

KK: We’ve had artists create unique turntables to boost our fundraising since 2016 when Thierry Noir made a set of 7 different ones. Planar 1/1 grew out of this when, in 2018, we created 10 turntables with 10 different artists, but didn’t get to have a proper show for them. This year we were able to display them at NOW Gallery immediately after the Secret 7″ show. The second lockdown put a stop to anyone being able to visit unfortunately, but we’re thankful that you guys captured it for people to experience.

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Photo by Charles Emerson.

TNG: What’s next for the team and ethos behind Secret 7”?

KK: Jordan and I run a company together called Goodness with the mission to harness the power of creativity to make a positive impact, so we’ll be continuing work on that and looking to create more projects like Secret 7”.

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Photo by Nina Manandhar.

Interview by Richard Unwin.

The Secret 7” tracks for 2020: Aretha Franklin – One Step Ahead; Bob Dylan – Blind Willie McTell; Foo Fighters – This Is A Call; Koffee – Toast; Miles Davis – Miles Runs the Voodoo Down; The Internet – Come Over; and Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall.

The artists, designers and musicians who contributed to the Planar 1/1 exhibition were: Alison Goldfrapp; Charlie Oscar Patterson; Chrissie Macdonald; Gregor Hildebrandt; Haroon Mirza; Isabel + Helen; Lauren Baker; Morag Myerscough; Phillips-Walmsley; Pure Evil; Rana Begum; Rayvenn D Clark; Sir Paul Smith; Shona Heath; and Tony Hung.

Virtual walkthroughs of both exhibitions are available to view via NOW Gallery’s profile on The Net Gallery.

You can find out more about the supported charity – Help Refugees – via their website, here.