Graceland has made its way to London – more specifically to North Greenwich at the O2. On exhibition until January, 'Elvis at the O2' is showcasing the largest collection of Elvis artefacts and memorabilia ever brought to Europe. The exhibition is an insight into the little Mississippi boy who became King, opening with an extensive collection of relics from his humble beginnings, including his birth certificate and school yearbooks. The show progresses with a steady chronology through Presley's school years, early career and his draft to the Armed Forces, before suddenly spilling over into a mass of kitsch and accomplishments. Custom made cars, golf buggies and motorbikes are peppered among lurid bejewelled jumpsuits and outlandish items of decor straight from Graceland. The curation is overwhelming in exactly the right way; Elvis made over 30 films in a staggeringly short time period and sold out concert tours for years with the merchandise to match - it's only right that there should be a deluge of pop culture artefacts to take in. This deluge isn't accompanied by a wealth of information to unpack it, maybe because everyone already knows Elvis. There isn't a person in the world who hasn't heard his voice or seen his image.
The novelty in seeing Presley's own credit cards or personal bedside telephone (both gold, naturally) is endless. The Graceland archive has provided over 300 pieces which trace the story of a true icon of pop culture, and it's surreal to see the symbols and artefacts which build the legend around Presley - such as his gold aviators or signet rings. The most mundane, everyday pieces are as fascinating as the iconic. Catching a glimpse at his primary school report cards and childhood playthings, or the most famous pout in pop history appear in a middle-school class photo, is truly special.
The exhibition isn't a learning experience, but who cares? Instead, we get to marvel at his outlandish taste, epitomised by his pink Cadillac and feel awe at seeing a personal note scrawled to President Richard Nixon. This is pop history at its best, overwhelming and outlandish, but recognisable and relatable to us all.
All images courtesy of Henry Leutwyler.
'Elvis at the O2' is on exhibition until 10 January 2016. You can find tickets here.