Michael Jackson: On the Wall 60th birthday art exhibition
The National Portrait Gallery gives props to Michael Jackson in its blockbusting new show
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