Michael Jack­son: On the Wall 60th birth­day art ex­hi­bi­tion

The Na­tional Por­trait Gallery gives props to Michael Jack­son in its block­bust­ing new show

Esquire (UK) - - Contents -

There is no way that the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery’s sum­mer show is not go­ing to be a hit. For starters, it’s about Michael Jack­son, whose end­lessly repli­cated, ma­nip­u­lated and dis­sected image is al­most as in­trigu­ing as his mu­sic. Also, it fea­tures the works of some phe­nom­e­nal artists who have made art fea­tur­ing the King of Pop, from Andy Warhol and Isa Gen­zken to Gra­ham Dol­phin and Ke­hinde Wi­ley. Then, it has been timed to co­in­cide with what would have been Jack­son’s 60th birth­day in Au­gust, when all those sin­gle-gloved, fe­dora-sport­ing diehards will be look­ing for ways to pay homage. (And it’s called “Michael Jack­son: On the Wall”. Hats off!)

Of course, there’s lots to be said about Jack­son’s image — how he used it pub­licly to blur bound­aries of sex­u­al­ity and race in what could be in­ter­preted as acts of brav­ery or, by some, of be­trayal. And how he was fas­ci­nated, and per­haps tor­tured, by it in pri­vate — just two months be­fore his death from an over­dose of pre­scrip­tion drugs in 2009, 1,390 per­sonal items from Nev­er­land Ranch were auc­tioned, un­earthing all kinds of crazy por­traits which he’d had com­mis­sioned, from Jack­son as an Arthurian knight with Lisa Marie Pres­ley as his maiden, to Jack­son as Peter Pan, air­brushed on the hood of a golf cart. Such art rep­re­sented a kind of wish ful­fil­ment for Jack­son, or per­haps delu­sions writ large.

This show, which is or­gan­ised with the Jack­son estate, will surely con­cen­trate on the fun side of the Jack­son story — the colours! the cre­ativ­ity! the kitsch! — so don’t come ex­pect­ing any bub­bles to be burst. (Also, no Bub­bles: none of the four edi­tions of Jeff Koons’ fa­mous ce­ramic sculp­ture of man and chimp were avail­able for the show.) How­ever, do ex­pect an ex­plo­ration and cel­e­bra­tion of an iconic fig­ure who con­tin­ues to in­flu­ence artists of all gen­er­a­tions all over the world. —

Michael Jack­son: On the Wall, 28 June to 21 Oc­to­ber, The Na­tional Por­trait Gallery, Lon­don WC2H; npg.org.uk

‘Michael Jack­son: Thriller (Black and White)’ by

Gra­ham Dol­phin will also be on show

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