Culture

The King of Pop Reigns in London

In collaboration with Hugo Boss, the National Portrait Gallery celebrates Michael Jackson’s enduring influence

Nine years after Michael Jackson’s untimely death, London’s National Portrait Gallery has bowed Michael Jackson: On the Wall, an expansive exhibition put on in collaboration with Hugo Boss that celebrates the universally adored, groundbreaking, and oftentimes controversial musician’s enduring artistic influence. “I had the idea for the exhibition about 10 years ago when I realized while working on another exhibition, which was about Andy Warhol and his legacy, how many artists from Warhol onwards had been drawn to or depicted Michael Jackson. And it’s an impressive number,” said the director of the National Portrait Gallery, Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, who curated the show. Indeed, some of the greatest visual artists of the modern era have created Jackson-focused works, like Warhol, Gary Hume, and Keith Haring, each of whom has a piece in this 48-artist show. “I think a lot of them feel it’s his artistry and his genius. He broke down so many barriers,” continued Cullinan of why so many artists were fascinated by Jackson.

 

On Monday evening, the Gallery broke out the champagne (which was served by waiters dressed like the King of Pop in a glittery glove, white socks, and cropped black suits) and invited the likes of Erin O’Connor, Brooklyn Beckham, Jamie Campbell, and Boss’ chief brand officer Ingo Wilts for a preview of the show, which is open to the public now through October 1, 2018. Naturally, Mark Ronson was posted at the DJ booth, spinning Jackson hits. “I’m soaking it all in,” said actor Adrien Brody while examining Todd Gray’s “Spin #1,” a series of archival prints depicting Jackson performing with his brothers. There was a lot to soak in, to be sure, with works by everyone from David LaChapelle and KAWS to Graham Dolphin and Isa Genzken. “It’s not about any one person’s perspective on Michael Jackson, including my own,” noted Cullinan. “And it’s not really about Michael Jackson. It’s about what his image has meant to all of us and how it’s resonated. And that can be as diverse and as different as the people who were drawn to him in the first place.”

One might wonder what Hugo Boss, a German brand known for its tailored suiting, has to do with Jackson, an American musician from Gary, Indiana. Well, fun fact, the brand is responsible for the white suit Jackson wore on the cover of his 1982 album, “Thriller.” “We’ve always been super proud that he decided to wear the suit,” offered Boss’ head of corporate communications, Dr. Hjoerdis Kettenbach. “Michael would have turned 60 in August, so now feels like a very good time to celebrate him.” Not only did the brand work with the National Portrait Gallery and the Michael Jackson estate on this exhibition, but come August, it is releasing a limited-edition capsule collection, comprising a new edition of that iconic “Thriller” suit and three unisex t-shirts that highlight pivotal moments in Jackson’s career.

While Jackson is no longer with us, his spirit lives on through his music, his style, and the memory of others. “There’s something about him that’s extraordinary,” added Cullinan. “He’s almost like a work of art himself.”

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