The Exhibition To Book Now: Michael Jackson: On The Wall

The Exhibition To Book Now: Michael Jackson: On The Wall

One of 2018’s most highly anticipated exhibitions, the National Portrait Gallery’s new blockbuster is set to offer an insight into pop culture’s enduring fascination with the late, great Michael Jackson. The show opens this weekend – here’s why it should go to the top of your must-visit list…

Almost ten years since Michael Jackson’s death, and coinciding with what would have been his 60th birthday on 29th August, the National Portrait Gallery is paying tribute to the King of Pop with a landmark exhibition exploring the singer’s influence on generations of artists.

Curated by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Michael Jackson: On The Wall opens this weekend. “The exhibition breaks new ground for the National Portrait Gallery in its subject matter and the breadth and profile of the artists who have been invited to participate,” Dr Cullinan explains. “It will open up new avenues for thinking about art and identity, encourage new dialogues between artists and invite audiences interested in popular culture and music to engage with contemporary art.”

Since Andy Warhol first used his image on the front cover of Time magazine in 1982 (also on display in the gallery), Jackson has become one of the most depicted cultural figures in modern art. For the first time, the exhibition will bring together the works of over 40 contemporary artists, including Grayson Perry, Andy Warhol, Isa Genzken and David LaChapelle, drawn from public and private collections around the world.

Despite a few notable omissions (none of Jeff Koons’ four ceramic sculptures of Jackson and his beloved chimp Bubbles were available for the show), there are plenty of familiar works on display. Visitors will be greeted by Kehinde Wiley’s three-metre-tall masterpiece that paints battle-ready Jackson sat astride a stallion and surrounded by cherubs. Some of Jackson’s other armoury will be on display via stylist Michael Bush and Dennis Thompkins’ ‘Dinner Jacket’ – a black leather jacket covered in silver spoons that Jackson loved to wear – and Mark Ryden’s album artwork for Dangerous, which, alongside an afghan hound wearing regal robes and a walrus, also depicts Jackson in an ornate mask and crown.

Away from the familiar, the show includes many works made after his death and a selection created especially for the exhibition. Most notably is ‘A Michael Jackson Alphabet’ (2017) by Donald Urquhart, which spells out A-Z in a series of joyful illustrations. Given that Jackson’s influence spread from music and fashion through to music videos and choreography, it’s not surprising that this show also incorporates film. We see his most famous music videos reimagined: Gaye Chetwynd’s ‘Michael Jackson’s Thriller – Hoxton Hall’ (2002) is an anarchist tribute to Jackson and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London-inspired music video from 1983; while ‘Who’s Bad?’ (1988) by Faith Ringgold honours Jackson and Martin Scorsese’s Bad.

Curated with the permission of the Michael Jackson Estate, don’t expect to come face-to-face with anything too controversial during this 40-strong selection of tributes. However, this is a varied and well-curated collection that depicts the breadth of MJ’s appeal and further cements his status as a cultural icon. A must-see for any pop fan.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, Covent Garden, London WC2H 0HE; 28th June-21st October


Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily