Britain will get a personal insight into the life of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, through the largest Elvis retrospective ever mounted in Europe, Elvis at The O2. Opening at The O2, London on 12 December, the nine month exhibition will showcase over 300 artefacts direct from the Presley family’s treasured Graceland Archives, some of which have never been exhibited outside of Graceland in Memphis.
The Elvis at The O2 exhibition chronicles the rise of the rock ‘n’ roll icon and how Elvis impacted popular culture around the world through his music, movies and personal style. From his humble beginnings to his meteoric rise to fame the exhibition will explore the Elvis-mania that first swept America and then the world, ground-breaking recording sessions, record-breaking concert tours, his military service, Hollywood film career and influence on fashion. Most importantly visitors will get an intimate peek behind the gates of Graceland and come to know the man hailed as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll; who strived to be the best possible father, son and friend.
Priscilla Presley comments: “Elvis meant so much to me and our daughter Lisa, but we both know that our family truly shares him with the world. His legacy lives on today not only through his music, but by those who share in the love and admiration of what he contributed to the world of entertainment. While each and every item contains a lifetime of memories, we are more than happy to allow these treasured memories to leave Graceland, if only for a short time, so that his fans and the curious can learn about who he was as an artist, and understand what he was really like at home, by seeing the things that he surrounded himself with.”
Graceland’s Director of Archives, Angie Marchese, comments: "This is not a collection amassed from auctions; they are personal items from Graceland, where Elvis lived most of his life. The exhibition will tell the story of a music revolution that began when Elvis first stepped into a recording studio in 1954 and the lasting impact of his incredible legacy. Elvis Presley is the greatest of all music icons and these artefacts are the symbols of the man and the music that changed popular culture forever. As John Lennon said, ‘Before Elvis, there was nothing.’"
Over 300 artefacts presented in Elvis at The O2 will include automobiles, personal items, historical documents, iconic stage costumes, guitars, gold and platinum records, photography in addition to dazzling audio and video presentations. Even the famous pool table Elvis played on with The Beatles will be on display. Specific items leaving Memphis for the first of its kind London exhibition include:
- “TCB” (Taking Care of Business) ring, 16 total karats with a centre solitaire of 11.5 karats
- Red 1960 MG Roadster from the film Blue Hawaii
- Elvis’ personal wallet containing photos of a young Lisa Marie Presley
- Elvis’ personal keys to Graceland
Some artefacts will only be on display for a limited period of time during the nine month run, giving the exhibition narrative a fresh and exciting story worth seeing on multiple occasions. Artefacts scheduled to be on display for a limited period of time over the course of the exhibition include:
- American Eagle jumpsuit from Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii
- 1955 “Pink Cadillac” Fleetwood used for touring and eventually given to his mother
- Elvis’ gold lame´ outfit worn on stage in 1957
- Black leather suit from the 1968 Comeback Special
Angie adds: “These artefacts represent the most intimate picture ever seen in public of Elvis’ journey from teen idol to movie star to rock icon. They are at the core of his work and his life and are the symbols of a social phenomenon that is recognised across the generations like no other.”
As a companion to Elvis at The O2: The Exhibition of His Life, the largest Elvis themed retail outlet ever assembled in Europe will serve as a marketplace for a large variety of Elvis and Graceland merchandise, including a broad selection of Elvis Presley CD's and box sets from RCA/Legacy Recordings, including an exclusive Limited Edition 2-CD keepsake collection, The Music From Elvis At The O2, made specifically for this exhibition and only available with ticket purchase or at The O2 Exhibition retail outlet.
It takes a lot of thought and care to create an exhibit as extensive as the Elvis at The O2 Exhibition. The nine-month exhibit will showcase more than 300 artefacts from the Presley Family’s Graceland Archives, some of which have never been exhibited outside of Graceland in Memphis.
“Elvis at The O2” chronicles the rise of the rock ‘n’ roll icon and how Elvis impacted pop culture around the world through his music, movies and personal style.
Angie Marchese, Graceland’s director of archives, decided to start at the beginning of Elvis’ story.
“First you develop a story line. We met with several design firms, told them what we were looking for and how we want to best represent Elvis. Our goal is to have an immersive exhibit one that really grabs the guest and draws them into the story. So we picked out artefacts that helped tell that story – pieces that really had meaning. We want the visitor to get not only Elvis the entertainer, but to see Elvis the son, the father, the friend. We want the visitor to really understand who he was and why he is still so relevant today,” she said.
To tell the story about the King, you also have to tell the story of the King’s castle.
“We wanted to give the guest at The O2 an authentic Graceland experience and leave them wanting to learn and see more,” she said.
Some of Marchese’s favourite pieces are in The O2 exhibition.
“They are so personal,” she said, “like Elvis’ 1st grade crayon box, his graduation program and tassel, a dress of Gladys’, his wallet with photos of Lisa in it. These are things that really showcase Elvis the man.”
Her favourite part of The O2 experience so far? “The best part is getting to pick out all of the amazing photos we will feature in the exhibit, editing together the video content to help bring each area to life and putting together the closing concert experience.”
The first collection of artefacts is almost packed now, and soon everything will be ready for 12 December.
“All of the artefacts have had the conditioning reports done, the images have been taken and they have been prepped for display,” she said. “Now it is time to ship everything over and watch it all come together.”