Our beloved Pop Art pioneer, Sir Peter Blake, has unveiled a magnificent mural celebrating famous figures that have appeared and performed at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall.
The 10ft mural is a triptych titled ‘Appearing at the Albert Hall’ and features a spectacular assemblage of figures from across the eras. The Albert Hall horde includes stars from the spheres of entertainment, sport, science and the arts, all of whom have spoken or performed at the Knightsbridge venue since its opening in 1871.
The Hall was opened as part of Prince Albert’s vision for a centre of the Arts and Sciences in London. Both Prince Albert and Queen Victoria appear in the mural. Amongst the 400 luminaries jostling for space in the theatre stalls and balconies are icons as diverse as Emmeline Pankhurst, Muhammad Ali, One Direction, Diana, Princess of Wales, Adele, Jay-Z, Benny Hill, Sir Edward Elgar, Jimmy Carr, Tim Henman, Leona Lewis, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Russell Brand, a Dalek, and the Dali Lama
The work sees Peter Blake return to the iconic ‘crowd’ theme of his infamous 1967 Beatles album cover. Bob Dylan, Fred Astaire, Dylan Thomas, The Beatles and Einstein all have the privilege of appearing in both the original Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover design and the Royal Albert Hall rendition. Albert Einstein delivered a prophetic speech on individual liberty at the Royal Albert Hall in 1933, shortly after the Nazis had risen to power and he became a refugee from his native Germany.
The figure with the most prominent central position in the mural is 36st 8lbs sumo wrestler, Konishiki. Known as Dumptruck, he entertained London fans in 1991 at the first sumo tournament to be staged outside Japan. He is joined in the artwork by British wrestlers Big Daddy, Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo and the masked Kendo Nagasaki. “Most of the names were sent to me by the Royal Albert Hall but I wanted to get Kendo Nagasaki in,” said Sir Peter, who used to attend wrestling bouts at the hall as a Royal College of Art student. “I was here the night McManus took out Pallo in a street-fight and I saw Nagasaki unmasked.”
Peter Blake produced the Sgt. Pepper piece using a laborious and lengthy process of hand-cutting, sticking and tinting. He even made a life-sized set to photograph. His 2014 adaptation, however, was created using a computer and digital manipulation. “Hi-def images are just clearer and better,” explained Blake, who had only seen it on a computer until the unveiling.
Peter Blake was notoriously paid just £200 for his renowned Beatles album cover in 1967. He confirmed that he has been paid “a fair price” for his latest adaptation, which was specially-commissioned by the Royal Albert Hall. The Hall has recently revealed a record performance in 2013 with its highest ever operating income.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s star-studded launch, Sir Peter said: "I was honoured when the Royal Albert Hall commissioned me to create this mural. The project instantly captured my imagination – the ultimate opportunity to promote the arts in one of Britain’s greatest venues, combined with the challenging process of immortalising over 400 of the world’s most popular artists." Rock legends Roger Daltrey, Bill Wyman and Brian May, all of whom feature in the mural, attended the launch and left laudatory comments in the Hall’s famous visitor’s book.
The spectacular mural is a testament to Peter Blake’s remarkable and unstoppable artistic energy and vision! The 81-year-old has created a magnificent celebration of one of Britain’s most fascinating historical venues and the Hall’s wonderfully multifarious alumni. The artwork will remain at the Royal Albert Hall where it can be freely viewed by any visitors.
Image credits: Andy Paradise, 2014, www.dailymail.co.uk