Michael Jackson: On the Wall – The King of Pop, Fashion and Art

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Music, fashion and art have always influenced one another, and throughout Michael Jackson’s iconic reign as the King of Pop, this was and is highly evident. Set to showcase his profound impact across all walks of life, the ‘Michael Jackson: On the Wall’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery successfully shows why Jackson is considered legendary.

The exhibition was launched to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, taking people on a journey of his life through the lens of the art that he inspired. The Michael Jackson Estate has partnered with Sony Music and Hugo Boss in order to create the exhibition that spans fourteen rooms. The Hugo Boss company states that:

‘With his incomparable style Michael Jackson indelibly influenced not only the music scene but the worlds of art and fashion as well.’

Though the exhibition includes various forms of art such as video, paintings and sculpture, it is clear that it is the iconic styling of Jackson that has influenced the bulk of it. Dara Birnbaum stated that:

‘I was amazed that even in silhouette, one could immediately identify Michael Jackson.’

Michael Jackson: Four Video Stills from Unrealized Work – Dara Birnbaum, c.1987

The artistic vision that Jackson had clearly extended past his music, with this creating the legendary image that impacts the music, fashion and art industries even today. Having worked with Jackson, Andy Warhol expressed the belief that he was:

‘a singer who cuts across all boundaries of taste and style, and colour too.’

Michael Jackson – Andy Warhol, c.1983
Jackson Family with Don King – Andy Warhol, c.1983

From his rhinestone jackets to his iconic gloves, elements of Michael Jackson’s fashion live on as his trademarks. The influence of his music and fashion on the art world are truly celebrated in this exhibition. The inevitable media crossover that an artist of Jackson’s calibre caused is very much highlighted, allowing the crowds to see just how intertwined fashion, music and art really are.

We are given a glimpse into Jackson’s approach to fashion in the exhibition, with a bespoke jacket designed by Michael Lee Bush. The jacket is covered in miniature pieces of cutlery, an idea formed by Jackson, as he believed cutlery to be relative to everyone’s lives. Bush recalls that:

‘everybody that saw him in it broke into laughter. And he loved that.’

Michael Jackson’s ‘Dinner Jacket’ – Michael Lee Bush, date unknown

Jackson’s playfulness and innocence in his approach to music, fashion and life as a whole is showcased throughout in an eye-opening manner. At times sad, often nostalgic and always inspirational, this exhibition is perfect for anyone (whether a Michael Jackson fan or not) with an interest in the creative world.

Works by hugely famous names such as Andy Warhol, Mark Ryden and Grayson Perry are on offer to view, as well as placing a focus on his relationships with those including Paul McCartney, Elizabeth Taylor and Brooke Shields.

In a career that spanned four decades, the musical and stylistic shifts created constant stimulating material for artists and designers alike. The exhibition is organised into rooms that are linked to various stages in Jackson’s life, from the 70s suits and Afros in the Jackson 5 era, to the long hair and military-inspired fashion in his later years.

Open from the 28thJune – 21st October 2018, with tickets on sale from as little as £5, this is not one to be missed. As Jackson himself said: ‘you got to be starting something’, and with his music and fashion, this exhibition showcases that he did exactly that.

Tickets available to purchase here: https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/michael-jackson-on-the-wall/exhibition/

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