Culture

The return of the King of Pop

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Michael Jackson’s most famous album cover is the inspiration for this summer’s poppiest portrait exhibition

Recognise the above? Of course you do. It’s Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller album cover. Only, as it turns out, it isn’t.

In fact, it’s an artwork called Thriller (Black and White) by artist Graham Dolphin, inspired by Jackson’s most celebrated album. It’s also one of the many creations going on display in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this summer.

Michael Jackson: On The Wall is curated by the gallery’s director, Dr Nicholas Cullinan, and celebrates the singer’s extraordinary impact on the visual arts. Today, we know Jackson as an influencer of popular music, modern dance and fashion, but the art world has yet to explore how or why he’s also become, according to the gallery, the most depicted cultural figure in visual art since his first appearance in a 1982 Andy Warhol print.

Now, the National Portrait Gallery is set to change that– with support in the unlikely form of Hugo Boss. It’s a little- known fact that Jackson wore a Boss suit on the cover of Thriller, and a number of pieces from Boss’s current collection are inspired by Jackson’s style from the period.

The story goes that when Jackson turned up to the 1982 Thriller cover shoot, he baulked at the stylist’s rail, and instead took up photographer Dick Zimmerman’s offer to loan him his white Boss suit for the shoot, a style moment that makes the brand the natural partner for the exhibition. Word is that a limited-edition reproduction of the very same suit will soon be available to snap up from Hugo Boss, too.

On The Wall offers a chance to celebrate the singer’s extraordinary talent, as well as opened to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday. With the work of over 40 artists on show, including Grayson Perry, Rita Ackermann and Warhol, it’s one of this summer’s hottest tickets.

Until 21 October, npg.org.uk