◼ Hold your breath! An exhibition that could so easily have been a lightweight commercial ripoff about the myth of Prince Rogers Nelson proves to be a surprisingly affecting tribute. Scores of artefacts have been loaned out for the first time direct from Paisley Park, Prince’s lush Minnesota estate, in a dazzling rush of bling and sentiment for My Name is Prince, his official exhibition which runs in London for the next ten weeks.
It seems a strange idea to visit seven galleries packed with video screens and to stand clad in earphones watching them play out the most vibrant highlights from the American pop icon’s uniquely anarchic imagination. Yet the very impact of so many screens disseminating so much talent only magnifies the intensity of the moment.
This one-man band’s genius is all too evident in every direction you look. In turns, you’re gasping at the audacity of Dirty Mind, smiling at the ingenuity of Sign ‘o’ the Times and shedding tears of envy for his sheer virtuosity in While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
Above all, the entire immersive experience is very, very lovesexy. The attention Prince lavished on his many lubricious costumes is revealing: so many apparently plush brocade garments are woven on light see-through black mesh that reveal the sinewy muscles of his tiny but taut 5ft frame within.
Prince the dandy also took any opportunity to shed his garments and flash his intimate zones, including his bare buttocks in orgiastic videos such as Gett Off, shot amid scantily clad girls and boys (“23 positions in a one-night stand”) at the 1991 MTV awards. Indeed one of the exhibition’s biggest draws is the video for Thieves in the Temple, from the 1990 Graffiti Bridge album, in which cutaway jeans reveal his bum and thighs and bouncing crotch capped with a glittering gold lamé jockstrap, in some of the most frenetic team dancing ever in high heels. The choreography is shamelessly horny.
The sheer range of Prince’s musical gifts during a 40-year career is well recognised – 70 albums, 2,000? songs, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, eight Grammies, 100 million records sold, and a ranking at No 28 among Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. But to assemble in a three-dimensional venue 200 tangible examples of his workaholic creativity as an all-round showman results in an affectionate multi-media tribute. For us to devour the close-up detail in his guitars, his hand-written notes and drawings, and his jewelled accessories becomes a truly moving privilege. And for a fan, the power of his achievements is reaffirmed as you bask in his subversive glow.
PRINCE’S PURPLE REIGN STILL EXERTS
ITS PULLING POWER
London’s Eighties pop star Andy Polaris visits the Prince exhibition to assess the enduring impact of the black performer who in his day challenged the norms of sexuality and race. . .
“ The first time Prince triggered my radar was a review in the music press of his concert at the Lyceum in London 1981, part of his Dirty Mind tour. He was featured in the accompanying review wearing a trench coat covering a lithe brown body and wearing black briefs and leggings, topped by his mop of black hair and pretty face. I was miffed to have missed his only show but before the internet niche events could slip by easily without social media to flag them up.
It was obvious from the start that this was a black artist who, despite the flamboyance of disco/funk stage-wear and album covers, was taking it a little bit extra with some sexual ambiguity. The lyrics of the funky album track Controversy (a bass-driven early dance-floor favourite) set the tone:
I just can’t believe all the things people say
Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?
I was fascinated to see the parade of Prince’s petite outfits complete with matching coloured heeled boots that covered Purple Rain, his purple metallic frock coat through to a crystal-encrusted cane and Balmain waistcoat he wore for W magazine. The materials are colourful, sheer and shimmering and in some cases boldly designed. He wasn’t interested in the toxic masculinity that permeates so many black artistes, one of the reasons he flew the freak flag for those who were not interested in paying £50 to see artists dressed in denim and T-shirts. . . ” / Continued at Andy’s own website