David Beckham might enjoy all the luxury and mod cons of a £31.5m home in Holland Park in west London, but it was on the spartan wards of Whipps Cross Hospital in east London that baby Beckham took his first steps.
The hypnotic video portrait of Beckham sleeping by internationally-acclaimed artist and film director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Sam Taylor-Wood) has been unveiled in its temporary new home at the hospital in Leytonstone, as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s flagship programme, Coming Home.
The show sees 50 portraits of iconic individuals from the national collection traveling to the towns and cities most closely associated with their subjects. In the National Portrait Gallery’s first major loan to a hospital, Taylor-Johnson’s portrait of Beckham, (David), will be on display until March 2020 in the Ultrasound Department.
David was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 2004, with support from JP Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions. Taylor-Johnson’s intimate portrait presents a reverential and vulnerable image of the international football icon. Drawing inspiration from the Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s Allegory of Night and Pop Artist Andy Warhol’s film Sleep featuring the poet John Giorno, Taylor-Johnson shot the film in a single long take, capturing Beckham asleep in Madrid after a long training session with his team Real Madrid before he retired. Simply lit from one light source, the rich, painterly film, is a meditation on celebrity.
Beckham was born in Whipps Cross Hospital on 2 May 1975. Growing up nearby in Leytonstone, he had scored over a hundred goals for his childhood team the Ridgeway Rovers by the age of eight. He also became the first English player to win league titles in four countries while playing for Manchester United (1992–2003), Real Madrid (2003–7), LA Galaxy (2007–12) and Paris Saint-Germain (2013). He also captained the English team 115 times. Beckham retired in 2013, dedicating himself to his new team Inter Miami CF and charitable work, including his role as a Unicef ambassador.
Since making the portrait, Taylor-Johnson (b. 1967) has directed the film Nowhere Boy about the Beatle John Lennon’s adolescence starring her husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Lennon. She also directed the hit film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “In our first-ever loan of an artwork to a hospital, we could not be more delighted to lend David to Whipps Cross Hospital as part of our innovative Coming Home initiative. We hope that sending portraits ‘home’ in this way will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history; thus, helping to fulfil our aim of being truly a national gallery for everyone, in our role as the nation’s family album.”
The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting portraits of men and women who have made a significant contribution to British life and history since 1856. As part of Coming Home, the gallery will be working with local museums, galleries and other venues to help choose portraits that are special to them, providing communities across the country with the opportunity to celebrate their local heroes.