WASHINGTON (AP) – On the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth, the Smithsonian Institution is showcasing the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s ubiquitous image through exhibits opening today in Washington and Los Angeles.
“One Life: Echoes of Elvis” will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington through August. The one-room exhibit is devoted to the evolution and influence of Presley’s image after his death.
“Think of all the entertainers you know, and how many of them do you know the names of their homes?” curator Warren Perry said. “Everybody needs to have a moment with Elvis.”
The exhibit features portraits, images from Graceland, Elvis merchandise, and a reminder that Elvis’ manager put his face on just about anything that could be marketed. The commercial images include an Elvis-imprinted lunch box, nutcracker, action figure and snow globe.
Original artwork from a 1992 Elvis stamp design competition is on view, along with the 1993 stamp with Presley’s likeness that became the most popular U.S. postal stamp of all time, with a printing of 500 million.
A gold bust of Elvis as Julius Caesar by sculptor Robert Arneson anchors another wall. A museum docent recently discovered a surprise in the sculpture that had been in storage at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum: A small heart was carved in the back.
“The people who call themselves Elvis fans, I’m sure there are fanatics, but these people have a loving affection for Elvis,” said Perry, who is from Memphis, Tenn. “It’s conversational. It’s intimate.”