Michael´s art collection
was a creative partnership between Michael Joseph Jackson and Brett-Livingstone Strong. Their aim was to establish the world's most dynamic arts enterprise, promoting the power of imagination, not just for creativity sake, but for the sake of important world causes. Michael and Brett focused their creative expression in support of the arts, children everywhere and our planet. Wherein is a brief history of the Jackson-Strong Alliance as well as Michael Jackson's little known private life as a fine artist..
In 1979 Brett-Livingstone Strong, a prolific sculptor, was introduced to Michael Joseph Jackson on two occasions by musician Lawrence Welk and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who recommended Brett’s sculpting abilities to support projects for the City of Los Angeles. Thereafter Brett and Michael became friends and artist collaborators over three decades, while Michael created his prolific collection of artworks and Brett created his many large sculptures. Herein are a few details of their friendship and artistic partnership together.
Through the 1980s Brett completed many awards, paintings, album covers, stage and set designs, sculptures, and architectural designs for Michael – including several projects for universities and hospitals. Following Michael's Pepsi commercial accident Brett created the bronze relief works for the MJ burn center and other institutions that Michael was contributing generously towards. Brett admired Michael's many drawings and early paintings, and he began encouraging Michael to create many more works of art at a much larger scale as they continued to support each other's creative efforts. By 1984 Michael had supported Brett's monumental works in Japan with Mayor Bradley for the sister city memorial sculpture in Nagoya, and Brett's official artwork for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
In 1985 Michael called Brett, as he often did – except this time instead of discussing fine art projects, Michael asked Brett a question related to being Australian, as Brett was born in a country town and raised in Sydney, and holds a green card to reside in the U.S. sponsored by none other than John Wayne. Michael asked how he should greet an Australian on the phone for the first time. Brett directed Michael to first say “g’day mate” in an Australian accent. After going over this many times together in their usual light hearted spirit, Michael felt confident to make his important introduction to Mr. Robert Holmes à Court in Perth, Western Australia. Mr. Holmes à Court owned the valuable Beatles songbook titled Northern Songs and the music publishing company ATV. Michael made the call and the trip that initiated the successful purchase of the historic music catalogs, which today has become a multi-billion-dollar asset.
Michael’s attorney, Mr. John Branca, arranged the purchase so Michael then traveled to Australia to meet with Mr. Holmes à Court in Perth to conclude the sale on August 10th, 1985, which was the 4th birthday of Brett son, Stason. Michael and Brett both had a good laugh about Michael’s Aussie accent and the success of his venture, and had a celebration when Michael returned to the states.
Brett also designed stages and other special projects with Michael. Some of these early designs were influenced by Brett’s Us Festival concert poster, art exhibition and stage design in 1983. Along with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Michael was instrumental in Brett’s awarded official government sculpture commissions for the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and other U.S. Presidential projects in 1986, 1987 and 1989 in New York City, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Michael was inspired by Brett’s patriotic monuments, and with the encouragement of Brett and introduction to Chief Justice Burger, who wrote a letter to Michael to commission him to create artwork to celebrate the Bicentennial of the U.S. Presidency, Michael began creating his portraits of U.S. Presidents.
Initially Michael focused his attention on the early U.S. Presidents he admired. Brett ordered the custom-made paper for Michael and for the White House, with embossing of the Presidential Seal in gold foil on many large archival sheets. When Chief Justice Burger passed away, Michael’s hope to have his presidential portraits exhibited in the White House for the bicentennial celebration also ended. Michael eventually completed many U.S. presidential portraits including masterworks of President Abraham Lincoln and President Washington, two of his favorite subjects. Also in 1987, President Ronald Reagan and California Governor, George Deukmejian, honored celebrities Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Muhammad Ali and Brett, for his patriotic monumental sculptures, with the American Spirit of Freedom Award. Michael celebrated the event with them all and later created portraits of the award recipients to honor them further.
Brett and Michael also worked together in Sydney for the 1988 Australian Bicentennial which was sponsored by the Australian government and commemorated by Prince Charles. Both Brett and Michael were honored on separate occasions by the U.S. Presidency and British Royalty. Brett was honored with his Presidential commission from President Ronald Reagan for the U.S. Presidency Monument in 1989, and the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution Monument in 1987, which President Reagan unveiled and dedicated with Brett at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on September 17, 1987. Michael was also honored for his achievements following “Thriller” with a special Presidential White House tribute by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan on May 14, 1984. Michael stayed over night at the White House in President Lincoln's bedroom, which inspired him to create his Lincoln portraits and his work of art titled “White House Doors”. In “White House Doors” Michael included his version of the quote below by President Adams, to which Michael added two of his own words, and spoke about having this statement placed above the front doors of the White House and dedicated on Presidents Day.
- Amendment by Michael Joseph Jackson, January 20, 1990
President John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail these great words upon their moving into the White House in 1800. Then in 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt ordered their engraving into the stone fireplace mantle in the State Dining Room. Michael learned of the history behind this quote when he stayed in the White House and was immediately inspired. He altered the quote by adding the words “or women” after “wise men”, in a clear advocacy of a woman president in the future. Michael had this quote carved in marble and planned to personally present it to the President on a future Presidents Day, to be placed above the front entrance to the White House, as depicted in his master work of art, “White House Doors”.
Brett’s commission of the official Royal opening invitation for the Sydney Opera House by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1973 had influenced Michael’s respect for Brett, as Michael had also met the Queen in 1973. Michael also admired Brett’s portrait for Princess Diana in 1986 and his portrait for Prince Charles unveiled in 1988. Additionally, in 1987 Brett’s portrait of Dr. Armand Hammer was unveiled by Mayor Bradley in Los Angeles, giving Brett additional public acclaim, and lead to Michael wanting Brett to paint his official portrait. At the same time Brett also encouraged Michael to create several of his own self-portraits for his fans which Michael went on to do so. In late 1989 Brett received the album cover of the decade award for Fleetwood Mac’s “Tango in the Night”, which he and Michael celebrated at their art studio property in Pacific Palisades that the two purchased together earlier that year. During this period Brett’s creation of the sculpture for his “World Friendship Monument” for Moscow and various artworks for Michael’s “We are the World” projects were completed; and Michael began creating several of his abstract sculptures. One of his early sculptures, which has survived for many years, is titled “2B or not 2B”.
During 1987 and 1988 Michael created his original tribute works of art titled “The White House Doors”, commemorating his visit to the White House, and a work titled ‘We the People’ in commemoration of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and the upcoming Bicentennial of the U.S. Presidency. This early patriotic work of art was created by Michael in 1987 on custom-made paper in their culver city studio in front of Brett’s nearly completed 27-ton United States Presidency Monument, while several of Michael’s employees and friends observed and recorded his creation process with photographers and video. The artwork was initially displayed in the official White House Bicentennial of the Presidency commemorative book, and following the Bicentennial, it was removed for Michael’s collection of creations. Other masterworks of art by Michael include all of his U.S. Presidential portraits with subjects such as Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Kennedy and other portraits of historic icons including General Custer, Sitting Bull, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; several of which are considered Michael’s greatest masterpieces. Michael was also inspired by British Royalty, using cues from garments, architecture and royal seals in everything from his stage designs to his personal clothing. Michael met with Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace in 1973, and later commemorated the event with his work titled “Buckingham Palace Gates”.
Early in 1989 Michael and Brett agreed to create a fine art partnership called the Jackson-Strong Alliance (“JSA”). This agreement was formed by Michael’s trusted attorney, Mr. Branca, who was very helpful and supportive to both Michael and Brett throughout their partnership. To commemorate the partnership Michael sat for a portrait by Brett, in which Michael also created some of the painting. Later that year they sold the original to a Japanese business man, Mr. Saike, for a $2.1 million USD, a record amount for a living artist at the time. A major press release and public media unveiling at the Beverly Hills Hilton covered this event, as well as Michael receiving the ‘Entertainer of the Decade’ Award, which Brett designed and made for this occasion. Photographers for MJJ productions recorded these events with photos and video as well as Michael’s signing of his fine art JSA collector prints with Brett. This portrait became the official painting Michael sat for, and in turn, Michael created a portrait of Brett that he titled “Brett, I Presume”.
During 1988 and 1989 Michael created many of his first originals, including abstracts, landscapes and sculpture designs, using wax pencils and oil pastels, of red and blue shades. Several of these were created on the custom-made paper that Brett had produced in France in the early 80s for Michael’s artworks and the White House’s commemoration of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Presidency. Some of the first photos and videos of Michael creating on this special paper was taken with Brett and Mr. Bill Bray, who was the executive director of MJJ Productions and Michael’s Office of Special Services and Security for many years, along with other MJJ employees seen in some of the photos. Also shown in the photos is Michael holding one of his special feather-capped wax pencils he often used for presentation photos and videos to create the art along with his cotton work gloves. In this 1987 photo he is shown creating and signing his original art on the custom made Presidential archival paper which included the special JSA security mark. Soon thereafter Michael started creating his first large paper and sculpture works in their Culver City studio.
Michael loved to draw while listening to music – everything from classical to jazz and rock – he would relax with his focus on creation and talk to Brett about many historic artists he admired such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gough, Monet, Pollack as well as Brett and Michael’s friend, Andy Warhol. Brett felt all of Michael’s worries were pushed aside during these passionate times of drawing, painting and sculpting, as he needed an outlet to relax; disconnected from other parts of his life.
After the JSA partnership agreement in 1989, Michael started creating a series of original works of art in their JSA studio in several hangars at the Santa Monica airport, as well as in their Pacific Palisades studio house, where Michael completed many of his fine art portraits in the early 1990s on the custom made JSA embossed archival paper, which included Michael’s embossed signature and dancing shoes logo. Many VIPs visited the JSA hangar studio. For example, Michael arranged for he and Mr. Steve Wynn to arrive in Steve’s jet to visit and view Brett’s completed 27-ton U.S. Presidency Monument and Michael’s own special large works of art, as Michael was proud to show off his latest creations from time to time. Michael desired to exhibit his works of art together with Brett’s sculpture works as well as sell limited editions to support various children’s charities and fund Michael’s Neverland sculptures designed by both of them. One of the charities was the Big Brothers of Los Angeles organization – supporting fatherless children, which was formed by Walt Disney in 1955. Michael admired Walt Disney and created his portrait of Walt which Michael panned to gift to Walt’s wife, Lillian, whom he and Brett had previously met, but was unable to complete the work before her passing. Both Michael and Brett were honored by Walt’s charity and became honorary board members in 1992. They were also honored with an official photograph of them with Mrs. Lillian Disney (Walt Disney’s wife) and Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney at the time. Michael and Brett agreed, at that time, to provide a share of their fine art limited editions already published by Brett as well as a few new works by Michael to this charity and others immediately following their proposed publishing. Big Brothers and Mr. Michael Eisner gave Brett and Michael the valuable gift of a historic rocking chair created for President J.F. Kennedy by Mr. Lawrence J. Arata, who worked for President Kennedy as a special assistant and previously made the exact chair for the President’s use in the White House. This chair, engraved with a brass plaque, inspired Michael and sparked his interest in collecting unusual chairs and to create his ‘Happy Chair’ works of art series, which includes Michael’s work depicting the historic chair used by President George Washington in Independence Hall. This also inspired Brett and Michael to have JSA publish a signed limited edition and special book to showcase Michael’s unique and growing original art collection in addition to his childhood works of art, including his Charlie Chaplin series.
In 1990 Michael and Brett started creating two fine art collections. One Michael titled his “Magical Works” – comprising of landscapes, seascapes, sculpture designs and his MJJ logo. Several of these were created in their Pacific Palisades studio where Michael was always enthusiastic about his creations. He often worked late into the night and the early mornings masterfully perfecting each of his cherished works of art, and when finished, he kept the works in his own bedroom there. Brett’s collection was titled “The Artist’s Formula” based on the portraits of some of the world’s most prolific artists. For “The Artist’s Formula” collection, Michael purchased antique books that were published when those historic artists were alive. One portrait was of Michelangelo for which Michael purchased a book published in the 1500s in Florence where Michelangelo lived at that time. From this book Brett had taken an unprinted 500-year-old page upon which he created his portrait of Michelangelo. Michael then shaded the portrait in purple. Over the three following years Brett completed many portraits which Bill Bray framed for Michael and had displayed in Michael’s home. This collection was to be published as fine art prints signed by both Michael and Brett. Brett also worked to publish a book titled “The Artist’s Formula” with the significant endorsement of many major international museums that he acquired in the early 80s. This book, though near completion in the 90s, still awaits a time to be finally published to showcase both Michael and Brett’s respective and collaborated JSA art along with a selection of works by the historic artists that inspired them. Michael and Brett decided to initially complete twenty-two original contemporary works of their art on the JSA embossed archival paper. Eventually, over the years, approximately 260 separate custom paper sheets were created on by Michael. He used both sides of about three dozen of the works because the custom-made blank sheets were limited. A few works were also left by Michael unfinished and unsigned. 100 of these sheets, representing 120 original works, that were selected by Michael for exhibition in museums as his “Treasures Collection”, have survived over the years in the JSA studio, along with other originals that Michael divided into his “Private and Personal Collections”. Several have been sold that were not included in Michael’s collections, while others have either been given away as gifts by Michael, misplaced, or destroyed by Michael when he was not pleased with them. Michael’s original JSA fine art collections include the “Historic Works”, which consists of his compositions of the Statue of David, the Getty Bronze and several others such as his tribute to the historic first flights of the Wright Brothers, which he hoped would be popular amongst the aviation industry near their hangar studio at the Santa Monica airport. Michael often left voice messages for Brett about his interest in the art projects, particularly the Michelangelo inspired works. Michael also wrote and left recorded quotes about Michelangelo and others for Brett to help inspire them both as they created, which are still in the studio to this day.
Other collections include ‘The Electric Past and Future Happy Chairs, Doors and Gates’. The sketches of these artworks were conceived by Michael as he documented them in his book of creations and lyrics where he wrote and sketched in the 80s and 90s, and from which Brett helped transcribe Michael’s designs to assist Michael in creating his original works of art. This book of Michael’s ideas was called “The Book” by Michael and Brett, and was later portrayed in the official Michael Jackson portrait titled “The Book”. This title was also embossed on the custom-made paper especially for Michael’s original art. In this painting the actual book is depicted at Neverland Ranch on Michael’s lap. The leather-bound book has one of Michael’s magic keys on its cover. The key also become a subject of Michael’s original works in 1991. During this year Brett was working with Michael on his Dangerous Album cover design and organizing the exhibition of the JSA originals at their Santa Monica airport hangar studios. On the various MJJ concert tours Brett encouraged Michael to create many other original works of art, including watercolor paintings while on the Dangerous Tour. Brett set up Michael’s London painting studio in which Michael completed several works in 1992 and gave them to his Royal and VIP guests who visited with Michael before his concert performances.
During 1990 and 1991 Brett again toured the world and represented Michael in Japan for a major tribute event honoring Michael. Brett also visited Israel to view historic sites, and later traveled to Moscow to view a site for the world Friendship Monument celebrating the nuclear disarmament treaty, which led to Brett and Michael designing several stage and performance outfits influenced by Imperial Russian history. During 1992 and 1993 they collaborated on several designs for the “Heal the World” logo and album cover. On one occasion Michael visited the JSA studio, where at the time they were storing President Roosevelt’s official touring convertible limousine depicting the Presidential seal on its doors, Michael’s photographer documented this car in the studio and took several photos of Brett and Michael with their original works of art as well as with the historic vehicle.
Brett went on to present several of the designs for the original album cover concept for “Dangerous”, centering around Brett’s concept and portrait of Michael’s eyes, with the final art produced by the record company. The 1992 and 1993 Dangerous Tour Book depicted a full page promoting the Jackson-Strong Alliance artistic partnership to inform the fans and general public worldwide that museum art exhibits and the subsequent publishing of Michael’s original fine art and Brett’s sculptural works was forthcoming. One of the tour book page designs also displayed one of Michael's favorite original works of art, titled “Electric Key”.
By late 1992 Brett and Michael had toured together via helicopter to many European monuments that inspired Michael to ask Brett to create three large public monuments of royal stature to celebrate Michael’s interest in the arts as well as a 12 foot tall statue of Michael to be placed in a cathedral of Michael’s design in which his fans could get married. The sculpture and its cathedral is now planned as Michael official memorial monument. The other sculptures planned at the time were to generate additional funding for charities and for JSA to create a series of ten large-scale sculptures for Michael’s Neverland Ranch. These sculptures were based on Disney characters originally drawn by Brett with Michael’s collaboration in 1992 and 1993 and authorized by the Disney Company through CEO Mr. Michael Eisner and The Big Brothers of Los Angeles Foundation, who were to benefit from the proposed bronze sculpture limited editions. Michael, enthusiastic to commence the Disney projects, also created his version of several of these Disney characters in the JSA studio, which he had framed and presented prints as gifts, three of which are in this book, titled “Peter Pan’s Neverland Gate”, “Baseball Mickey”, “I Love You, Mickey” and “Golfing Goofy”.
During the “Dangerous” tour shows in London, Michael created his ideas and sketches for his Electronic Door and Chair Series of fine art compositions influenced by designs from the 18th and 19th centuries. Through 1993 Brett further assisted Michael in completing many originals that were finally ready for publication by 1996. After the JSA contract term ended many of the originals were kept by Michael and friends, several of which were put aside for framing by Michael in 2008, with the balance of the collection mutually agreed to be left for Brett to exhibit, publish and promote Michael’s fine art following his London concerts into the future.
Following Brett’s personal introduction of Lisa-Marie Presley to Michael in their Pacific Palisades studio estate in 1992 in regards to a recording contract, Michael and Lisa wed in a private ceremony in the Bahamas. The very first photograph of Michael and Lisa was taken by Brett’s wife, Margot Strong, in the Pacific Palisades property which recorded their first meeting. Priscilla Presley, Lisa-Marie’s mother, who had been friends with Brett since 1978, came to Brett’s home to discuss the news of their marriage. Shortly after Michael and Lisa’s wedding, Michael’s name was publicly damaged worldwide by certain false charges, which halted the scheduled exhibition and publishing on Michael’s art at that time. After early 1994 and the following years, the negative publicity completely deterred galleries, fine art publishers and JSA investors (such as Moross Fine Art Publishing, Big Brothers of Los Angeles and Disney) from funding the publishing of both their JSA sculpture and Michael’s original works of art. Many of the charities who had expressed interest in exhibiting and selling the art declined to do so. Now that Michael had completed many unique works ready for exhibition, and the limited editions were ready for printing and marketing in 1994 and 1995, there was little interest and no available funding from galleries for the art collection in connection with Michael.
During 1994 to early 1996 Brett completed three original master oil-on-board paintings featuring Michael. Two of these works honored Michael’s marriage to Lisa-Marie Presley in 1994, which followed Brett’s introduction of the two. One of these paintings, titled ‘Friends’, portraying a magical setting of both Michael and Lisa-Marie, was unfortunately stolen and reported to the police but still hasn’t been recovered to this day. One of the other two paintings, titled ‘The Stream, An Unfinished Life’, is still in Brett’s possession. Michael created an original poem to go with ‘The Stream, An Unfinished Life’, a story about a young woman he loved. This was inspired by Michael’s interest in two works of art created by the great 19th century painter, Waterhouse, who Michael admired and asked Brett to help recreate elements of in a painting portraying Michael’s life envisioned in the 17th century. Brett and Michael were joint creators, each envisioning and painting half of this masterpiece. The other large painting requested by Michael, also influenced by Waterhouse, includes a portrait of Lisa Marie Presley Jackson. In 1996 a Japanese company offered $6 million to purchase this work, to be unveiled by Michael and Lisa Marie. Michael agreed to unveil this painting at the home of Brett’s friend, Mr. John Paul De Joria, owner of Paul Mitchell Systems and Patron Tequila, in Malibu to celebrate Michael and this major art sale. Unfortunately, the week prior to the unveiling Lisa-Marie announced her plans to divorce Michael, which halted the sale and it’s unveiling. Several years later Michael and Brett planned to exhibit these paintings and Michael’s art collection in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and New York. From 2002 Michael completed additional works of art including a few large watercolor works which he thought could be exhibited in a Las Vegas casino. Unfortunately, none of these exhibits ever came to fruition, due to Michael’s continuing legal problems.
In 2007, after Michael returned from abroad and many years of unfortunate issues surrounding Michael had passed, Brett proudly exhibited some of Michael’s beautiful originals at their private Santa Monica studio to celebrate Michael’s acquittal of all charges. Brett had discussed with Michael, following his return from the Middle East, their long-awaited opportunity to finally exhibit the art in galleries and hopefully a museum, as well as publish the two books of their respective JSA creations, including a bronze sculpture series of Michael’s ‘Magical Works’. During that time Brett requested and received a document with specific written approval from Michael, as well as his manager, Dr. Tohme Tohme, for Brett to show to galleries, acknowledging Michael’s agreement and approval for Brett to arrange the exhibitions of Michael’s art with permission for Brett to allow galleries to exhibit Michael’s name, photos and signature in association with his art to promote the exhibitions. Also, in 2008 Michael authorized Brett to prepare the production of his art book and limited edition prints from all of Michael’s originals in his “Treasures Collection” to be promoted during Michael’s “This Is It” concert tour, arranged by Michael’s manager. In early 2009, Michael titled all of his works and authorized his full collection to be registered at the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington D.C., assigning Brett as the copyright holder to be the executive for the production of the art book and limited editions while scheduling museum exhibitions for Michael to showcase his creations.
During Michael’s last visits with Brett, Michael completed some of his watercolors, his ‘Seven’ series as well as other unfinished works. ‘Seven’ has always been significant to Michael and appears in many of his artistic works. Michael is the seventh child, his first and last names each contain 7 letters, and he and his mother felt the number seven was a special positive sign and a symbol of a blessing. The number 7 also appears on the entrance gate to the studio where Michael created many of his original works. Michael enthusiastically agreed to support the international promotion of his art and be present at the opening events in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for his ‘MJ Creations’ exhibition in 2009 and 2010. These exhibits did not eventuate due to Michael’s tragic and untimely passing. Michael’s mother, Katherine, has since been working together with Brett to arrange an exhibition of Michael’s presidential portraits at the White House, as well as to support the creation of Michael’s memorial monument, wedding chapel and art center to permanently honor Michael’s artistic legacy and creative genius.
Over the years, several official JSA portrait photographs of Michael and Brett together were taken. Michael’s mother, his children, other family members and the Estate of Michael Jackson are enthusiastic to honor Michael’s memory and artistic legacy, and support the creation of Michael’s monument. Michael’s family and trustees of his estate have all visited Michael’s art studio to view his collection of creations in the past, and have recently viewed the proposed plans and model for Michael’s official memorial monument. The 12-foot-tall statue was requested in writing by Michael for Brett to create, and has since been funded by the sale of a select few of Michael’s works of fine art. Following Michael’s private funeral on September 3rd, which Brett attended, Mrs. Jackson approved and encouraged Brett to commence the creation of the official Michael Joseph Jackson Memorial monument, as Michael had originally designed with Brett, which was inspired by the Prince Albert Monument in London that Michael and Brett visited together with Bill Bray in the early 1990s. Brett committed to keeping the majority of Michael’s art together and intact as a museum collection as Michael envisioned and desired, promoting his great artistic ability for the enjoyment of his many fans. This art book of Michael’s enchanting creations is dedicated to his lasting memory, extraordinary life and wonderful creative talents that have touched millions of his fans around the globe and will continue to inspire millions more into the future.
Original website: www.jacksonstrongalliance.com/#loaded
Michael Jackson´s personal artist David Nordahl
An Interview With David Nordahl with The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies
Source of the content is The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies