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German Museum Plans to Open Michael Jackson Exhibition Despite Leaving Neverland Controversy

The Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Germany says it has no plans to cancel its exhibition on the pop star despite a new documentary investigating Jackson’s alleged history of sexually abusing minors.

Singer Michael Jackson live in Lisbon, Portugal on September 26, 1992 as part of his international tour (via Wikimedia Commons)

Despite newly-publicized allegations that Michael Jackson repeatedly molested children, a blockbuster art exhibition celebrating the singer will continue its world tour.

A spokesperson for the Bundekunsthalle in Bonn, Germany told Hyperallergic over email that the museum has no plans to cancel Michael Jackson: On the Wall, although the institution is closely monitoring discussions surrounding the recently-released HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland.

The exhibition, which examines the musician’s influence on contemporary art, first opened at London’s National Portrait Gallery last summer before traveling to the Grand Palais in Paris. Currently, On the Wall is scheduled to open in Bonn for a four-month run starting on March 22 before heading toward Finland in August. The show contains works by 40 artists including Andy Warhol, David Hammons, Paul McCarthy, Isa Genzken, Kehinde Wiley, and Jordan Wolfson.

While the exhibition was developed by NPG in cooperation with the musician’s estate, the Leaving Neverland documentary released without the Jackson family’s approval. In fact, the pop star’s estate is suing HBO for potentially more than $100 million, in part because the film’s director, Dan Reed, never requested their comment.

When Jackson died in 2009, he had fought against multiple allegations of child sexual abuse for over 15 years. Leaving Neverland details the separate accounts of two men, now in their 30s, who say the celebrity began long-running relationships with them when they were just 7 and 10 years old. The four-hour documentary describes in detail how Jackson allegedly manipulated those around him to gain access to young boys. Stories within the film include the star’s secret system of bells to warn of approaching adults; a mock wedding ceremony with a child and studded diamond ring; a series of slumber parties that turned into sex; and unaware parents who were ecstatic to be guests at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

“The allegations made in the film are shocking,” the museum said in a statement originally written in German, “the lawsuit, however, has not been resolved and since Michael Jackson’s death [these allegations] have been considerably more difficult to prove.”

The exhibition’s curatorial thesis seems tailored to anticipate and avoid confronting the singer’s history of child sexual abuse allegations. Museum organizers have avoided “discussing his biography” in favor of “examining Jackson’s cultural impact,” according to the Bunderkunsthalle’s statement.

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