Video portrait captures Beckham asleep

Video portrait captures Beckham asleep

  • Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
  • The Guardian, Tuesday 27 April 2004 12.24 BST

Iconic imagery … Contemplating Sam Taylor-Wood’s video portrait of David Beckham.



“His waking hours may be full of turbulence and anxiety, as claims and counter-claims are flung around about his sex life. But at least David Beckham can sleep like a baby – or so it would seem from a portrait of the footballer by Sam Taylor-Wood, to be unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery today.
The portrait, simply called David, is a 107-minute film of Beckham slumbering in bed, a drift of blond locks cascading on to a white pillow. Somewhat less eventful than the average Real Madrid match, the film shows Beckham tenderly cradling his head in his startlingly hairy forearms, occasionally stirring to reveal a hint of shoulder tattoo, a nipple or a touch of lower torso.
Beckham (on this evidence at least) has no unpleasant sleep habits, such as snoring or dribbling. His mouth remains firmly closed, though there is the odd twitch of the lips and even the occasional tantalising half-smile.
Sandy Nairne, director of the gallery, said: “It took a long time to arrange, but what turned out to be very simple was that with Real Madrid the players have a training session in the morning, followed by a long siesta.”
Taylor-Wood, who was nominated for the Turner prize, made the work in a Madrid hotel room in January. “He really is asleep,” said Mr Nairne.
Claims about Beckham’s alleged infidelity may have rekindled the debate about privacy and the press, but ironically, Taylor-Wood’s image is almost transgressive in its intimacy. The film is shot at Beckham’s eye level, such that the viewer might almost imagine him or herself lying beside the star. The figure appears strikingly vulnerable.
The image is also unashamedly beautiful. Beckham’s limbs and face are warmly lit, looming out of a Caravaggio-esque gloom. The curves of his musculature and honeyed tone of his skin are sensuously conveyed. This is a David as physically perfect as Michelangelo’s.”


A new video portrait of David Beckham by international artist Sam Taylor-Wood will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery from Tuesday 27 April 2004. The portrait has been commissioned by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery and made possible by JPMorgan through the Fund for New Commissions.
David is an intimate portrait, which was shot in a single long take. Beckham was filmed sleeping, after training in Madrid. Simply lit from one light source this rich, painterly film presents a reverential and vulnerable image of this international football icon.
Born in Leytonstone, East London, in 1975, David Beckham had scored over 100 goals for his childhood team, Ridgeway Wanderers, by the age of eight. In 1991 he signed to play for Manchester United and made his first-team debut four years later. Beckham was named “Young Player of the Year” in the 1996/7 season and won his first England Cap in September 1997. In 1999 he helped Manchester United win the “Treble”, playing some of the best football of his career. Beckham was appointed England captain in 2000 and led England to a memorable 5-1 victory over Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifying round. In July 2003, Beckham left Manchester United to play for Real Madrid. Much attention will be on Beckham again this summer as England captain for the 2004 European Championships in Portugal.
Sam Taylor-Wood (b.1967) graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1990. Her work in photography and film has won her much international critical acclaim, including the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale (1997) and a Turner Prize nomination (1998). Taylor-Wood is at the forefront of the new generation of contemporary British art. Since her first solo exhibition at White Cube in 1995, she has had numerous solo exhibitions, including being the youngest artist ever to be granted a solo exhibition at The Hayward Gallery. Taylor-Wood is currently working with Ray Winstone on a feature film based on the life of William Blake and will be exhibiting a new body of work in September 2004 in New York.
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said : “Sam Taylor-Wood offers a compelling view of David Beckham as he lies asleep. It is an intriguing and intimate portrait of one of England’s finest footballers and we are delighted that we have been able to commission it with the support of JPMorgan.”
Sam Taylor-Wood said : “Making a portrait of a much-photographed man like David Beckham was a challenge. I wanted to create a direct, closely observed study. Filming while he was asleep produces a different view from the many familiar, public images”.
JPMorgan said : “We are proud to continue our long-standing commitment to the arts through the creation of the Fund for New Commissions with the National Portrait Gallery. We believe that investment in this fund will provide a platform for future development of new portraits and encourage the ongoing support for new and emerging artists.”
David by Sam Taylor Wood will be displayed in Room 41a from 27th April 2004
Notes to Editors

  • Sam Taylor-Wood’s Self-portrait in single-breasted suit with hare was acquired by the Gallery in 2002
  • David Beckham is represented by four portraits in the Photographs Collection by Nadav Kander, Lorenzo Agius and Dean Freeman (with Victoria Beckham)
  • David is 1hour 7 minutes long and is shown as a continuous loop on a 40″ 4:3 Plasma screen. (

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