Fine Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori
The Memorabilia and Memory of Michael Jackson
By now, the news of Michael Jackson’s passing is no longer breaking news. A short time after the mega-star’s untimely death, we are still flooded with reports about all things Michael Jackson. However, my view of much of the news reporting on Jackson’s death is less about the reporting of any new information and more about so-called expert opinions on Jackson’s lifestyle. The litany of Jackson “experts” who have emerged is mind boggling. These people seem to be quasi-related to Jackson and are trying to just piece together enough hearsay information to provide a basic sound bite.
Beat It. I think these commentators on Michael Jackson’s life and career may be best described as “adjective guys.” They are just chock-full of adjectives. Statements swirl about Jackson’s ghostly appearance, suspicious lifestyle, mysterious dance moves, eerie musical compositions, and unmatched genius. Report something real.
It’s obvious that Jackson was made of the same stuff of all the great artists throughout history—he was a student of the discipline. While Jackson as a student doesn’t sound as sexy or controversial as some of the goings-on at his famed Neverland Ranch may be, but his student status is what really made him great. Contributions are made to a field by knowing what has already been done and by knowing what’s new, innovative. Michael Jackson must have known that in order to grasp the full breadth of a field; you have to know what came before and how the field developed. Jackson contributed at a level that showed his sincere and dedicated interest in the field.
The Man in the Mirror. As a student, Michael Jackson understood the single most important concept of the arts—its history. Like all great artists, Michael Jackson knew history. As a musician, he understood the history of composition of such greats as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, the Beatles, etc. In the world of dance, Michael Jackson referenced the basic tenets of ballet in his signature moves; he drew upon the movements made famous by Martha Graham on Broadway and Fred Astaire in the movies. Jackson gave credit to history as his teacher and from history, Jackson’s studies evolved into his own masterpieces.
Jackson’s genius derived from the same place that made Michelangelo learn the sculptural techniques of the ancient Roman masters. This is the same yearning for information that prompted Jackson Pollock to study the paintings of Pablo Picasso.
Rock with You. For the people who are asking themselves, why is there now this renewed interest in Michael Jackson memorabilia, music, and videos following his death? This is typical upon the passing of any artist. In the past, Jackson memorabilia and objects that reference Jackson’s likeness have meant big money. For example, artist Jeff Koon’s famous porcelain and ceramic sculpture of Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles from 1988 set an auction record for the artist when it sold in 2001 for $5,615,750. Conversely, an Andy Warhol silkscreen of Michael Jackson dated 1984 sold without reserve in May of 2009 for a less than impressive $278,500, whereas a similar work by Warhol of the King of Pop sold only two years earlier for a swelling $598,530.
Now, following Jackson’s untimely death, there is a frenzy surrounding the realization that with the loss of Michael Jackson, the world will not have access to his work, and there will be no further production of new work. Of course, typical examples of memorabilia like photographs, concert tickets, albums and other personal items will now flood the market as fans clamor to obtain memorabilia of their favorite artist or cash in on the press attention surrounding his death. This frenzy may stimulate the marketing and exchange of Jackson memorabilia that the new money generated as a result of his death could far exceed the current net worth of Jackson’s estate.
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