Meditations by Patrick Whelan - Mr. Jackson’s final painting By whelangaller | Posted June 25, 2009 | Laguna Beach, California
Michael Jackson’s love for art has changed our little Laguna Beach art gallery forever. Patrick Whelan and I were graced with the rare honor of meeting Mr. Jackson and his daughter, Paris at the Beverly Hills art show last month. He wandered around our booth, with his daughter, picking out original book cover illustrations and various fine art pieces. “Peter Pan” and “The Buccaneers” were among the illustrations on his list. But, ultimately it was “Meditations” he truly fell in love with. Later we found out he referred to this piece as the “the blue painting”, and that he mentioned this piece almost every day.
Patrick and I delivered the art to his house two weeks ago. What an honor it is to have our art as a recent inclusion in Mr. Jackson’s collection, even if only for a short time, the art and Mr. Jackson and the memorable art he created, will live forever!
On behalf of artist Patrick Whelan and Whelan Galleries, we would like to extend our utmost respect for Mr. Jackson and condolences to his family and to his wonderful staff. Thank You!
Feb 16, 2010MR. JACKSON’S FAVORITE The Complete Story – by Patrick Whelan Michael Jackson’s Favorite Painting
I saw a tragedy etched in her expression before she even spoke, and still, the words didn’t quite register. “Michael Jackson just died”, she said almost inaudibly. Amber was sitting on the stoop leading to the back room. Less than two weeks earlier we had delivered seven paintings to Jackson’s rented mansion on Carolwood Way. The beautiful new desk we had purchased as a celebration of our sale was resting askew in our Laguna Beach gallery, still waiting to be installed. Flashback to the mid-sixties when I was a kid living in Joliet, Illinois with a talent for drawing, too many best friends and a naive confidence in an easy and glorious road to the future. I existed happily in my daydream, oblivious of another child living only a short distance away in Gary, Indiana – a young prodigy with a talent for singing and dancing who was already embarking on his own journey into destiny.
Fast forward to 1980. I was a struggling young artist living in a tiny apartment in the San Fernando Valley, California and working as a part-time security guard to help pay the rent. The company I worked for had a contract with the Jackson family to provide security for their home in Encino. One of the other guards who was assigned to that detail told me of working the night shift there and said that Michael, who was then poised on the brink of his meteoric rise as a solo artist, would often walk with him on his rounds and keep him company. He described him as very quiet, personable, and unassuming. Shortly after my co-worker shared this with me, I received a call. I had been assigned to the Jackson house.
I arrived at the front gate early. I had been told someone would meet me there to let me in, but thirty minutes later I was still waiting and had begun to panic. What if I was at the wrong address? I sped off to find a phone (no cells in 1980) so I could verify that I had not made a mistake. I had not.., but by the time I returned it was a moot point. I had already been fired.
Fade ahead to May, 2009. My gallery director Amber Henry and I had set up a booth at the Affaire In The Gardens art show in Beverly Hills. We were unaware that our tent was only a few blocks from the King of Pops Holmby Hills estate. Around 2:00 in the afternoon a little girl with long brown hair approached the table where Amber was sitting and began to gather gallery brochures and to take digital snapshots of a painting called ‘Meditations’. “Are you an artist?” Amber asked her playfully. “Ah huh,” she smiled and nodded affirmatively.
Just then, I noticed a small group of persons who had come up behind the girl on my right. The man in the middle stood out immediately. He was wearing a dark scarf over his mouth. He had on sunglasses, a fedora, and was holding an umbrella. His gaze was fixed on the 'Meditations’ painting. He didn’t seem to take note of anyone or anything else.He then turned and started to walk away. And as he did, it finally struck me. “Oh my god!” I thought. “That was Michael Jackson!” I leaned over Amber’s shoulder and shared my revelation with her. “Do you know who that was?” I asked her. She was even more oblivious then I had been. “That was Michael Jackson,” I said slowly and with dramatic emphasis on each syllable. She turned and assured me with an incredulous smile that it most certainly was not.
At this moment, a very affable gentleman in a dark suit approached us. He identified himself as Faheem and handed me his card. On it was written Michael Jackson Company.“Mr. Jackson would like to buy that painting,” he said smiling and pointing at the Meditations piece. I felt like I had shifted into a different reality. I summoned Amber to draw up the paperwork, but he resisted consumating the transaction saying simply that, “We will pay you later.” He then told us that they would be back and in a wink he was gone.
Amber and I looked at each other. What had just happened? We weren’t sure. But true to his word, about twenty to thirty minutes later, they did return. Michael Jackson, the little girl whom we now realized was his daughter Paris, Faheem, and at least one large bodyguard all reappeared at our booth. There may have been more persons in the group, but I failed to notice them. Amber and I were both caught up in the moment. We simply watched as Michael and Paris scouted out the contents of our walls which had art displayed on every side. They pointed. They took pictures. Michael made a dramatic gesture at one point, dropping to one knee as he opened his fingers majestically toward a small print that was sitting on the ground in one corner. No questions were asked. We were as ghosts in MJ’s world, unable or unwilling to intrude into the unspoiled peace of his shopping moment.
Three…five, six, seven pieces later, they were done, and the entourage moved silently away. Only Faheem remained. The joy he felt in his job was glowingly apparent. He had one of the best gigs in the world and he knew it. He quickly outlined MJ’s list of selections which included three original oil paintings and four limited edition prints. But again he resisted consumating the transaction. “We’ll pay you later,” he said with a large smile as he hurried away to rejoin the others. They had our information. We had theirs. Now what? Later that same day Faheem requested our bank routing information and said that the money would be wired to us first thing Monday morning. Monday arrived alone – the money did not come. A few days later, Faheem contacted us. “Is the money there yet? Mr. Jackson really wants his art.” Over the ensuing weeks, this refrain began to resemble the mantra from a song chorus with only a few minor variations.
I had to admit, as an artist, that when another artist, especially one of the stature and talent of Michael Jackson has taken an interest in your work, that no greater honor can possibly be felt. But this aside, it was still impossible to deliver the art without payment. Several of the pieces he had selected were one-of-a-kind original oil paintings that could never be replaced. Faheem’s calls gradually became more insistent. “Mr. Jackson really likes your art. He’s asking about it every day now,” he complained to Amber. “I don’t understand why the money hasn’t arrived.”
Then finally, on June11th an accountant from AEG Live called the gallery. She apologized profusely for taking so long and said that the money was on it’s way. She then e-mailed us a copy of the wire transaction for verification. On it was written “MJ’s personal”. Amber called me at home. “We’re on!” she announced. “They want us to deliver first thing in the morning. Faheem said we must be there before ten, because that’s when Mr. Jackson leaves for rehearsal. And he said Mr. Jackson always likes to meet the artist.”
We arrived in Beverly Hills at about 8:30 A.M. on Friday, the 12th. We made a pit stop at the park and Amber checked in to let them know that we had arrived. We were there for nearly half an hour before Faheem contacted us. He said he was still running some errands for Mr. Jackson and told us to meet him at the front gate in about twenty minutes. When we reached the mansion we parked across the street behind a station wagon with a single papparazzi inside. There was an enormous Christmas Wreath adorning each of the two entry gates, which made for a very striking statement in mid-June. Soon more papparazzi pulled in behind us. A couple of men were standing on the curb, toying with the long angle lens’ on their cameras. And thus we waited.
Then, almost at the stroke of ten, Faheem appeared on foot, walking from around the corner with his briefcase in hand and motioning for us to follow him. We were keenly aware of the eyes observing us as our black truck slid from it’s berth and entered the enclosed courtyard, which apparently had been designed for maximum privacy. We were instructed to back our suv in next to the front stairway, which Amber accomplished in nervous fashion, nearly renovating the bubbling fountain in the process.
At this point, men in suits began to manifest, seemingly from all directions and to descend upon our vehicle. Several of the art pieces quickly disappeared into the open threshhold of the manor. I peered inside and noticed that the staircase had been lovingly dressed with colorfully lit Christmas lights.
Suddenly I noticed that the normally calm and smiling Faheem seemed agitated. He was searching frantically among the remaining artworks and asking fearfully, “Where’s the blue painting?” I wasn’t sure at first what he meant. Apparently though, as I later realized, this was how Michael Jackson referred to the “Meditations” painting. Oddly, the image itself had very little blue in it but was, however, framed with a large deep blue liner around it.
“It’s the one with the girl sitting with her head resting on her knee,” he described imploringly. There was panic in his expression. Finally, what he was looking for dawned on me. I told him that the 'Meditations’ painting, the 'sleeping angel’ had been brought into the house already. It was the first one they had taken. He wasn’t reassured. He hadn’t seen it in the house, but he would look again. Moments later, I looked up the front steps to see a once again beaming, and confident Faheem. The sense of relief issuing from him felt almost palpable. He had obviously found the artwork. “That’s Mr. Jackson’s 'favorite’ ,” he said, still smiling. I confided that it was one of my favorites also and that I was very flattered that “Mr. Jackson” had found such a connection to it.
With the mystery solved and all of the artworks safely delivered into the womb of their new home, Amber and I were then left standing nervously by the truck as Faheem went to arrange our meeting with the man himself. The courtyard, which only minutes before had been abuzz with activity, was now suddenly empty. Even the friendly man who manually controlled the opening and closing of the main gates was nowhere to be seen. It was as if he had been consumed by the giant hedge.
Faheem returned alone. “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,” he said. “The bad news is that Mr. Jackson won’t be able to meet with you today, because he’s still in bed. The good news is that he wants to reschedule the meeting.” We told him that we would be very pleased to come again. We also mentioned that we would be mailing the certificates of authenticity to him. But he advised against this because the contents of the mail box were often pilfered. Instead, he said that it would be safer to simply bring them with us when we came the next time.
Amber spoke to Faheem only once more after this. And the last time we heard his voice was during the frantic 911 call that played on the news following Michael Jackson’s death. The sun was shining brightly on the afternoon of June 25th as it almost invariably is in southern California. Yet something was missing. A voice, a presense, a part of our culture had been silenced. And the world felt eerily incomplete. I knew also that I would be left to forever ponder the prophetic meaning of MJ’s affection, in the waning days of his life, for the haunting image of a sleeping angel.
I remember standing at the edge of a river when I was a child. I was wearing skis and a lifejacket. The sound of the boat engine hummed as I prepared excitedly to glide across the water for the very first time. Then, at the last second as we were about to launch, my dad told them to stop. It was getting too late. The sun was setting. It was time to go home. I never have skied, and I never will have that conversation with Michael Jackson. And yet, in a very real way we did speak to each other. I spoke to him with my art and he answered with his appreciation of it. And maybe, after all is said and done, that is enough.
————————————————————- PART III
Then a smart fan decided to write to gallery, she wrote his testimony
A while back I emailed Amber from the art gallery for more info about MJ’s interest in this painting and she only just replied, she doesn’t know anything else really but still thought to post it: She got response from the gallery:
Thank you for your inquiry…
I am unaware of anything else Mr. Jackson may have mentioned about the painting because I was only in contact with his bodyguard throughout the process. The only thing that was mentioned to me was that Mr. Jackson was asking about the art everyday and that he was anxious to receive it. It was when we actually delivered the art that Mr. Jackson’s bodyguard was looking for “The Blue Painting”, referring to “Meditations” because that was his favorite.
The fan insisted:
After I got Amber’s reply and read the story of Patrick Whelan I thought to email him as well and tell him our opinion about Lisa’s connection to the painting so that he wouldn’t always be 'left to forever ponder’ why the painting meant so much to MJ, anyhow I just got a nice reply from him. She got response again:
Thank-you for your lovely comments about the art. I do appreciate that. Meditations was one of my personal favorite paintings, so it was particularly gratifying for me when an artist of Michael’s stature was also drawn to it. I was very slow to see the connection to Lisa Marie because, of course, I know the model who actually posed for it. Nevertheless, I have heard this from so many people, including many who have come into the gallery and seen the print there, that it is finally becoming apparent to me.
But the clincher for me occurred a couple of weeks ago when I ran across an article that was published in a newspaper in Taiwan. They featured the Meditations painting alongside three photos of Lisa Marie which had been taken at the time she was with MJ. The resemblance was indeed striking. I am now convinced absolutely that this was the reason for his connection to it. He may have been planning to show it to her, or even to present it to her as a gift. But unfortunately, he passed so soon after it’s purchase that we can never know these things for sure.
I doubt very much if Lisa Marie is even aware of it’s existence. I think it would be a very wonderful thing though, if she did see this work, because then she would know that she was still in Michael’s heart even to the end. Perhaps one day she will see it. I certainly hope so. I really think Michael would have liked that. Take care Best always,
Randy Taraborelly comments about the Blue painting:
“ It is true. I checked it out and MJ did buy the painting because of LMP. I’ll write more about it in the update of my book. Thanks so much for writing.” Finally JRT’s book, 2010 he writes regarding to this painting:
“Michael was mesmerised by the painting and according to someone very close to him said, 'This is how I imagine Lisa in my mind. In fact, when I dream about her, this is how she looks. I have to have this painting.”