Two major exhibitions in London, and I saw them on consecutive days over the Christmas period, so how do they compare?
The O2 in North Greenwich is the venue for ‘Elvis at the O2: Direct from Graceland’ which showcases clothes and artefacts from the life and career of the American singer Elvis Presley (1935-1977). This is the first time a major exhibition relating to Elvis has taken place in Europe and it runs to August 2015.
Over at the Museum of London in the City is the exhibition ‘Sherlock Holmes: the Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die’ which runs to the 12th April 2015. It presents pictures and items relating to the Holmes universe and the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as a selection of film and television portrayals.
Elvis – £20 per adult. We took 90 minutes to visit the exhibition, and then watched the 26 minute film of Elvis performances which closed the experience.
Sherlock – £12 per adult. We took 45 minutes to visit the exhibition.
Elvis – the exhibition is not signposted at all outside the O2 or inside, so you just wander through the centre until you find the picture of Elvis at the bottom of an escalator. You queue and get your ticket scanned, and 20 people at a time are allowed up the escalator. You go up to find the shop (nice marketing) where you pick up your pre-booked souvenir guides – but not the CD, which isn’t ready yet – then through the doors and into the first exhibit, a short slideshow on Elvis at various times in his life.
Sherlock – very well promoted in the Museum near the entrance, with a frieze outside of the entire Dancing Men story. You walk straight down to the exhibition (two flights of stairs), where your ticket is scanned and you pass through a bookcase of old tomes into the first section of video screens showing various film and television depictions of Holmes.
Elvis – very much encouraged, but not with flash, and no video recording permitted.
Sherlock – ticket says no, but attendant says yes, except for items flagged with the ‘no photography’ label (including the Hammer Hound poster, some older engravings, and an on-loan Monet).
Elvis – minimal. If you were not a fan with pre-knowledge of Presley’s life, you might struggle. Few objects are put into detailed context, although there are some nuggets throughout the exhibition.
Sherlock – very good in depicting the universe of a fictional character and a London which has now vanished.
Elvis – not that many recordings in evidence, perhaps because of copyright – for example, the Graceland room has ‘Welcome to My World’ on a loop. However video content is superb, especially from the ’68 Special. I would have welcomed some private video/audio, but this exhibition doesn’t have much ‘off-stage’ other than his wedding cufflinks, Lisa Marie’s fur coat and baby clothes, and some artefacts from Tupelo.
Sherlock – many clips from film and television (although some notable omissions), as well as radio recordings, and an interview with Conan Doyle.
Arrangement of exhibition:
Elvis – starts with Tupelo and then Memphis, and then into a room showcasing the main Vegas/Hawaii jumpsuits and the Cadillac, with rooms off including Graceland (with photographs of the main rooms), Hollywood (film posters, scripts, records, costumes), and the ’68 Special (the Guitar Man costume is here, but not yet the black leather outfit). You’ll see Elvis’ gold telephone, Taking Care of Business ring, wedding champagne, Harley Davidson bike, riding saddle, the Maltese Cross necklace Linda Thompson gave him, his letter to President Nixon, and the American Eagle outfit from Aloha from Hawaii. Look up to see LP sleeves hanging from the ceiling. At the start you see the birth certificate, family Bible, school reports, and Army uniform.
Sherlock – starts with the audio/video and film posters, then on to the London Holmes knew (maps, pictures of hansom cabs, locations etc.), and a room full of so many clothes and artefacts you would swear this man was real – a nice touch is passing through the door of 221B to get to this bit. There is the violin, the deerstalker, medical paraphernalia, and various items which relate to the various stories. Nearer the start you find material relating to Conan Doyle (the ms. of A Study in Scarlet, his tobacco jar).
Elvis – high end items (replica jumpsuits at £2,900, photographic prints at £400, art prints in a book at £75), middle end items (shirts, bags), low end items (very cute teddy bears at £10, bobble head Elvises, fridge magnets). When you arrive at the exhibition your photograph is taken at the ‘gates of Graceland’ and you can buy the photo in an £18 pack (tip – don’t bother with the key ring, etc. as you don’t get extra copies of the photo to put in it).
Sherlock – I already had the excellent book, but there are pricey teddies at £35 (one Holmes, one Watson), a few DVDs, and Conan Doyle book tie-ins with the BBC series. Not many high end items, but a lot of reading material.
Would I recommend?
Elvis – if you are a fan, absolutely yes, but you might be a little lost and confused if you’re not. Don’t miss the 26 minute show as it lets you see a selection of Presley performances at his best.
Sherlock – if you are a fan or interested in period London, there is a lot to see here.