Traveling down to London’s O2 Arena, Shaun Ponsonby became one of the first people to view the items on display at the world premiere of the official Prince exhibition.
Ten years ago, Prince set a new record at the O2 Arena, playing 21 consecutive sold out shows, and almost as many aftershow parties at the neighbouring Indigo2. He put the then-new arena on the map, turning into his own Purple Palace for one funky summer.
The O2 therefore became an obvious destination for the world premiere of My Name Is Prince – an exhibition of artefacts from throughout The Purple One’s career, coming direct from his home and studio complex Paisley Park.
Initially slated to run for 21 days – mirroring Prince’s run in 2007 – the demand has been such that it has been extended into the New Year.
This morning saw the press launch for the exhibition, and Planet Slop were thrilled to have been invited along.
Heading up to the exhibition centre, we are faced with pictures not only of Prince, but of Elvis Presley due to the Elvis exhibition happening next door. As Prince himself said, “You gotta be a Prince before you can be a King”.
My Name Is Prince itself begins with an exploration of Prince’s early years. As you enter, you are greeted by the video for his first hit, I Wanna Be Your Lover. The early albums are then represented with their own sections, starting with For You and leading up to Purple Rain.
There were some real curiosities for fans in those early years; the bass guitar played by Andre Cymone that formed the basis of Prince’s iconic cloud guitar, the six string he used on his first ever TV appearance, handwritten lyrics and hand drawn sketches for outfits.
Of course, it is the finished outfits themselves that awestruck us the most. Pretty much his entire wardrobe from the Purple Rain era was on display; the iconic coat, the tour costumes, the garment he wore when he collected his Oscar with Wendy and Lisa.
The exhibition seemed to be separated into pre and post Purple Rain eras, which is a smart move given how much that whole project transformed Prince’s career. Entering the second room, the first thing that caught our eye was the peach and black stage wear from the Sign “O” The Times tour, along with the acoustic guitar he used to perform Forever In My Life.
The items were initially showcased in the 1987 concert movie of the same name, which has become the gold standard of the form. Personally, I have watched this film probably more often than Purple Rain – Prince was on fire at this point in his career. He was James Brown, but he was Miles Davies, but he was Elvis, and yet he was always Prince. Rolling Stone went as far as to say that he made “Michael Jackson look nailed to the floor”. Seeing these particular items were a shock.
But then, so were the LoveSexy outfits, and the hat from the My Name Is Prince video, and the suit he wore in the Raspberry Beret video, Gemini – the half-Joker, half-Batman character he created for the Batdance and Partyman videos – the 3121 shirt and his 3RDEYEGIRL glasses.
Most eras are represented, although there is a bit of a gap when it comes to his late 90s, early 00s wilderness years.
I have yet to have the pleasure to visit Paisley Park, but from what I have seen there seemed to be much more of a concentrated effort here than there has been in Minneapolis. There were far more items on display, and you could walk around the room and effectively get the Prince story from the artefacts. Each one had a piece of the story to tell.
Live at the new My Name Is Prince exhibit at The O2. Ahhhhhhhh
Opslået af Planet Slop på 26. oktober 2017
The VIP lounge has some of the more intimate items, and you get a sense of Prince behind the scenes; mirrors, towels, skincare products (it seems he used Dove soap), all serving to humanise a man who can very easily be viewed as other-worldly .
Despite the nerdy nature of a lot of the items on display, it isn’t inaccessible to the casual fan or the general public. The headsets provided probably won’t tell the avid fan much they do not already know, aside from identifying some of the more obscure objects. However, for those who are merely curious, it provides real context to the great man’s career.
Fans who may be concerned that this is nothing more than shameless profiteering needn’t fret. They have maintained the level of tasteful class that you would hope. Real love has been put into it, and it is a rewarding experience.
On our way out Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, was saying how important the fans have been in this time. I had to take the opportunity to thank her for bringing these items over. There may be some who protest the very nature of the display, but not everyone can make it to Minneapolis, and to take some of these items around the world gives fans everywhere a chance to experience real closure.
My Name Is Prince welcomes visitors to The O2 from October 27th 2017 until January 7th 2018.
Pictures by Vicky Pea