Bonn Phenomenon, icon, King of Pop? Visitors to the Michael Jackson exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle discuss the allegations of abuse against the deceased superstar.
Phenomenon, icon, King of Pop: superlatives surrounded Michael Jackson and there are a whole series of visual artists who have worked on interpreting them. There are, for example, the dance shoes being lifted by their tips by balloons to depict the musician’s light-footedness, or the painting of Jackson on horseback like the Spanish King Philipp II long ago. Andy Warhol stylised his friend for a portrayal in Time Magazine. These are the subject of the exhibition “Michael Jackson: On the Wall” at the Bundeskunsthalle.
What it does not deal with is the current discussion about allegations of abuse against the deceased musician that has been rekindled by the documentary “Leaving Neverland”. “The Bundeskunsthalle is aware that this topic cannot be ignored in relation to Michael Jackson,” said Beate Marks-Hanßen, who was leading a tour through the exhibition and discussing it with her companions at selected exhibits.
Michael Jackson exhibition hung in the balance
The show in Bonn hung in the balance because of the allegations, but was then put on after all. According to Mark-Hanßen, the exhibition is not biographical; it is about Jackson as a subject for other artists. It was also curated before the discussion resurfaced.
Visitors have to look for the issue of child abuse in these works themselves. The painting by Kehinde Wiley, commissioned by Jackson himself, leaves a lot of room for interpretation. This depicts him as a king - after all, he called himself the King of Pop. “Far removed from reality,” commented one participant in the tour. “He lived in a fairytale world after all.”
Wiley finished the work after Jackson’s death, but the two cherubs, one with white and one with brown skin, over the superstar in gleaming armour on horseback, were not planned in the original, Marks-Hanßen explained.
Jil and Marcel, who did not want their surnames in the paper, said there was a lot that could be interpreted into the works. Marcel has been an avid Jackson admirer for twelve years and has had the cover to the album “Dangerous” tattooed on his back. “I had a concert ticket for his last tour, but he died before that.”
How does Marcel feel about the allegations of abuse and the documentary? “It goes in one ear and out the other,” says the 26-year-old. Many things have already been refuted. Jil, 21-years-old, felt it was “as if his naivety was being exploited.” Both liked the exhibition because the issue was not given much space.
“It is hard to separate his art from his deeds,” said Maximilian Blume. He and Carolin Giese could imagnine there was something to the allegations. We will probably never quite fathom what Michael Jackson was really like, said Blume. The exhibition did not help either, but they both thought it was great.
Original text: Stefan Knopp. Translation: kc