Fine Art, Fine Tuned: Artist-Designed Pianos

Masterfully splattered with yellow, ember-like flecks of bleach, Steinway & Son’s latest piano design resembles an abstract work of art as much as it does a musical instrument. That’s thanks to the famed piano purveyor’s recently launched cultural initiative, ‘The Steinway Commission,” for which three contemporary artists will use a cutting-edge Spirio player piano as a medium for their work. The participating artists will also be paired with a Steinway musician, who will compose an original score inspired by the artwork that can be reproduced on the player piano.

A collaboration between Steinway and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the initiative is slated to span three years. The first commission has gone to pianist and producer Robert Glasper and artist Mark Bradford, who, just last month, was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2017 Venice Biennale.


Bradford conceived the aforementioned bleach piano design, whose capricious pattern is not unlike the unpredictability and frisson of a dramatic musical score, for his leg of the project. Titled ‘Apollo’, the work was inspired by the artist’s days working at his mother’s Los Angeles hair salon, where he performed many hair-bleaching jobs. Bradford’s piano is complemented by Glasper’s four-movement score ‘Still Shining.’

Spirio player piano artwork

‘Apollo/Shining Still’ will be presented for auction during Christie’s Post War & Contemporary sale taking place this Wednesday, May 11. The second phase of the commission will debut next year and the final project will be presented in 2018.