Monday, January 18, 2021

Michael Jackson the Subject of New Art Exhibit in London

David LaChapelle

*Michael Jackson is the subject of a new art exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery that reveals the extent to which contemporary artists have been drawn to the late King of Pop, as an artistic inspiration, a tragic figure and a fascinating enigma, reports the AP.

Michael Jackson: On The Wall” features work by 48 artists from around the world and includes paintings, photographs, videos, textiles and ceramics all inspired by the late icon. It ranges from 1980s pop portraits by Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to David LaChapelle’s depictions of a Christ-like Jackson and Kehinde Wiley’s vast portrait of the entertainer as a king on horseback.

Curator Nicholas Cullinan said Wednesday that, nine years after Jackson’s death, the show explores “how he could mean so many different things to so many people.”

The exhibition also includes works that reflect on what Jackson meant to his fans, his place in African-American culture, the way he manipulated fame — and the way fame manipulated him.

U.S. artist Todd Gray, who worked for Jackson as a photographer in the 1970s and 80s, reworked his old photos by layering other pictures over Jackson’s face, including images from Ghana, where the artist has a home.

“It’s my way to place Michael in the African diaspora,” he said.

The show has the support of Jackson’s family, though not all the works are flattering. American artist Jordan Wolfson shows nothing but Jackson’s darting, blinking eyes, taken from a 1993 TV interview in which the star denied child molestation allegations.

Several works depict Jackson in a mask, most famously Mark Ryden’s cover art for the “Dangerous” album. Isaac Lythgoe has turned that image of Jackson’s masked eyes into a plush headboard.

A woman looks at an artwork by Donald Urquhart called 'A Michael Jackson Alphabet'
A woman looks at an artwork by Donald Urquhart called ‘A Michael Jackson Alphabet’

One work, filling a whole room, focuses not on Jackson but on his fans. South African artist Candice Breitz filmed 16 German-speaking Jackson fans of myriad ages and races, singing “Thriller.” It’s an engaging and moving work that shows just how much Jackson means to those who love his music.

“Michael Jackson: On the Wall” runs in London from Thursday until Oct. 21. It moves to the Grand Palais in Paris from November to February, then travels to the Bonn, Germany and Espoo, Finland.

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