Exclusive to Bendigo, ‘Elvis: Direct from Graceland’ celebrates the extraordinary life and style of Elvis Presley

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Exclusive to Bendigo, ‘Elvis: Direct from Graceland’ celebrates the extraordinary life and style of Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, publicity still for Jailhouse Rock, 1957 © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved. Elvis Presley™ © 2021 ABG EPE IP LLC
Words by Toby Lee

The exhibition 'Elvis: Direct from Graceland', has travelled from Memphis, Tennessee to arrive in Bendigo, regional Victoria, in March.

The Bendigo Art Gallery unveiled its biggest exhibition yet when around 300 cherished artefacts owned by ‘The King of Rock and Roll,’ Elvis Presley, made their way Down Under in March.

The collection has people flocking to Bendigo from all over the country to experience an exhibition that has never been seen before in Australia.

Coming directly from Elvis’ Graceland home, the display is giving visitors a sense of both the public and private life of Elvis as well as his enormous influence on popular culture that can still be felt today.

Have you heard? Priscilla Presley is coming to Victoria to launch the exclusive Elvis Presley exhibition. Find out more here

Bendigo Art Gallery curator, Lauren Ellis, was quick to emphasise how rare it is to have an exhibition of this kind.

“This is a totally original exhibition that we’ve developed, you know, from scratch with the Graceland Archives, which makes it really special. It’s kind of a one of a kind thing, they don’t do this very often. In fact, there are literally, you know, one or two other comparable events. So, this is a massive deal, not just for Bendigo, but really for Australia,” said Ellis.

Vice President of Archives and Exhibits at Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland, Angie Marchese, stated that exhibitions of this size do not come around often. “We’ve only done a few international exhibitions on the scale, including one that debuted at the O2 arena in London back in 2014 and one in Brazil in 2012.”

Elvis Presley in the 1968 NBC television special,
Singer Presents… Elvis, later known as the ‘Comeback Special’.
Photograph: Fathom Events/CinEvent

Drawcard items on display will be Elvis’ custom made 1976 Red Bicentennial Harley Davidson, his military uniforms, the bright red convertible 1960 MG from the movie Blue Hawaii and his iconic jumpsuits. Although these somewhat flashier artefacts will be of great interest to many, the collection of less famous yet more personal items will open up an avenue into Elvis’ private life that will further endear him to people.

“I think, what makes it special is like, very personal and rarely seen sorts of things. So like childhood mementos, and, you know, his high school diploma, and, you know, his first ever pay stubs before when he was still driving a van for Crown Electric, through to, you know, obviously really personal things like some of Lisa Marie’s baby things and yeah, outfits and things like that… they just couldn’t come from anywhere else in the world,” said Ellis.

“I think people will feel a sense of surprise and discovery that, you know, he’s a much more kind of complex and creatively accomplished and interesting individual than just the kind of stereotype of the white jumpsuit and the gold sunglasses.”

An extraordinarily prolific artist, the exhibition will make known the staggering amount of work that Elvis produced throughout his career. Releasing 57 albums and, in barely a decade, making an astonishing 33 films, Elvis’s work ethic was second to none. Equally acknowledged in the exhibition will be the vast impact that he had on fashion and pop culture at the time.

“I think also realizing not just how much he achieved in a relatively short career, you know, his actual career was really only two decades, kind of 56 to 77 was the period that he was kind of, you know, famous and performing… and across that time there was like music and cinema and so on. So, he was very prolific, but also you kind of realize how, in the short time he just radically reinvented himself and his image and his style, from the sort of 50s rockabilly or rock’n’roll look to the, you know, suave Hollywood star of the 60s, through to this extremely individualistic kind of jumpsuits and rhinestones sort of bling, superfly 70s look. So, I think that’s pretty interesting,” said Ellis.

An unfortunate consequence of Elvis’ success and fame was the toll that it took on him personally. As Elvis said at a press conference prior to his record-breaking shows at Madison Square Garden in 1972, “…the image is one thing and the human being is another…it’s very hard to live up to an image.” 

Another thread in the fabric of the exhibition looks at the effect that fame can have on an artist.

“That’s kind of part of the story is that it wasn’t really a sustainable way to be a performer. In our world today… there’s much more of a conversation about, you know, what is sustainable and healthy for people living in the public eye and creatively performing,” said Ellis.

Featuring in the exhibition will be a collection of 1956 Elvis merchandise that gives people a glimpse of the crossover between the man and the brand. “It really shows the birth of that kind of like, commodification of the individual,” said Ellis.

The exhibition is a must-see for all lovers of music, history and popular culture. It opened on the 19th of March and saw Elvis’ former wife Priscilla Presley coming to Victoria to launch the Elvis: Direct From Graceland exhibition. In a coup for the region, Priscilla provided fascinating insights into her life with Elvis and shared touching anecdotes about one of the world’s most iconic entertainers.

The exhibition runs until the 17th of July.

The Bendigo Art Gallery is expecting tens of thousands of visitors to come from all over the nation to experience and explore the life of Elvis Presley and the everlasting impact he has had on the world.

Tickets to Elvis: Direct from Graceland at Bendigo Art Gallery are available here