Share your Michael Jackson Story

Thursday afternoon, around noon, I was doing an advance press interview with Modern Painter magazine about the exhibition Who Shot Rock & Roll, which opens here at the Brooklyn Museum in October. One of the questions the writer asked me was, “What challenges do you face in designing an exhibition of rock and roll photographs for an art museum?” My immediate responses were: “Since it’s the first major exhibition about rock and roll photographs in America, we are including an encyclopedic 175 works and the challenge will be how I can install so many works, and still give each one its own space.” . . . as well as, “It’s not often that I’m installing images such as Johnny Cash giving the finger, and an equally provocative image of Courtney Love, and how do you present these works, which overtly say rock and roll, but might offensive to some museum patrons?”


Michael Jackson, 1999. (printed 2000). Photograph by Albert Watson.

Well today, it’s a different world in Rock and Roll.  Michael Jackson died.  We have a huge 8′ x 6′ portrait of Michael Jackson in the show, by the world renown photographer Albert Watson. Before, my mind was on “Where should we put the 8 photographs of Elvis from 1956?” . . . and “Where can we fit the 6 panel lenticular photograph of Jimi Hendricks?” Today. . . my thought is, “In what special place can we put our great American artist Michael Jackson?”

In the last several days, I’ve had dozens of conversations about Michael and his music and dancing. It seems everyone has a story of where they were and what happened when they were listening to his songs. A similar thing happened late in 2007, when Michael Jackson came to the Brooklyn Museum for an Ebony magazine photo shoot to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Thriller. I’ve never seen such giddy, smiley people before . . . all wondering if they were going to catch a glimpse of Michael . . . and all saying how much they just LOVED THRILLER!

What’s your story?