Direct from Graceland: Victoria scores unprecedented Elvis Presley exhibition for 2022

More than 300 items from the Elvis Presley estate will arrive in regional Australia in March for the biographical Bendigo Art Gallery show

Graceland is coming to Australia.

The Victorian government announced on Monday a major new biographical exhibition exploring the life and times of Elvis Presley, scheduled to open at Bendigo Art Gallery in March 2022.

Curated in collaboration with the Graceland trustees, including Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, the blockbuster exhibition will display more than 300 pieces of memorabilia, including Presley’s 1960 red MG sports car, his 1976 custom Harley Davidson, and two costumes he wore in the ‘68 Comeback Special.

The director of Bendigo Art Gallery, Jessica Bridgfoot, said the gallery had been granted unprecedented access to the Graceland archives to present a comprehensive exhibition of the defining musical artists of the 20th century.

Elvis and Priscilla Presley cutting their wedding cake, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, 1 May 1967
Elvis and Priscilla Presley cutting their wedding cake, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, 1 May 1967. Bendigo Art Gallery was granted unprecedented access to the Graceland archives. Photograph: EPS/Graceland

In addition to exploring the high profile and enduring legacy of his celebrity, the exhibition will delve into the lesser-known aspects of Presley’s early years, interests and personal life, as well as his radical sense of style.

Curator Lauren Ellis has spent the better part of two years immersing herself in the life of of one of the most influential public figures of popular culture, examining not just the impact of his music and films, but also his contribution to art and design.

A family portrait of Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley
A family portrait of Elvis, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley. Photograph: Graceland

“I began to realise how heavily appropriated and remixed Elvis is in fashion and style, and the heavy emotional fan base he still has. His story sort of has this Shakespearean quality to it.”

Presley also signifies major generational changes of the 20th century, from the emergence of post-war baby boomers (he became one of the first figures to attract global celebrity in a mass media market), to his time in Hollywood, to the excesses of 1970s Las Vegas.

“He achieved it all through his own invention, and really without a roadmap,” Ellis says.

“He did really break this completely bizarre new ground.”

Elvis Presley during his U.S. Army Service, 1958-1960
Elvis Presley during his army service, 1958-1960. Photograph: Elvis Presley Estate/Graceland

Alongside the signature Presley costumes, the exhibition will include many personal family items from his early years living in the “shotgun shack” in Tupelo, Mississippi, as well as documentation of his breakout at Sun Studios, his US Army service, his time in Hollywood, and his Las Vegas years.

Items in the exhibition are as varied as a crayon box the young Elvis took to school, the hymnal book he took to church with his family, his first job application, the tuxedo he wore at his marriage to Priscilla, and the tiara she wore as his young bride.

A $500,000 grant from the Victorian government has secured the exhibition, which Bridgfoot assures is not just for die-hard Elvis fans, but for anyone who is fascinated by the nature of American popular culture and the myths surrounding celebrity.

Elvis: Direct from Graceland opens at the Bendigo Art Gallery on 19 March 2022.


Kelly Burke

The GuardianTramp

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