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David Beckham ('David')

4 of 6 portraits of David Beckham

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David Beckham ('David')

by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Sam Taylor-Wood)
digital video displayed on plasma screen, 2004
Commissioned; made possible by J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions, 2004
Primary Collection
NPG 6661

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This portraitback to top

David is an intimate portrait, created in a single long take. Filmed in Madrid after a training session, it is simply lit from one light source. For this work, she has drawn on diverse influences from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol to present a vulnerable image of an international football icon.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 143
  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 61 Read entry

    An hour-long close-up of the national footballing icon, shot in collaborative intimacy while he was taking a siesta after a training session for his team, Real Madrid. A reverential and vulnerable potrait, and a restful contrast to magazine and paparazzi shots.

  • Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 7 Read entry

    Appointed England captain in 2000, footballer David Beckham (b. 1975) led his team to a memorable place in the World Cup in 2002, but then moved to Spain to play for Real Madrid before joining American professional soccer club, the Los Angeles Galaxy. This portrait captures Beckham asleep at siesta time, exhausted after a long morning’s training. In contrast to her earlier staged conversation pieces, Sam Taylor-Wood here returns to a naturalistic scene shot in real time. Drawing on diverse influences from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol, she has produced an intimate and collaborative portrait, for which only the artist and subject were present. Simply lit, the result is a vulnerable image of a national icon captured off-guard, a far cry from his familiar public persona.

  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 120
  • Nairne, Sandy; Howgate, Sarah, The Portrait Now, 2006
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 267
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, pp. 266 - 267 Read entry

    Footballer David Beckham was born in Leytonstone in east London and attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester. He signed to play for Manchester United in 1991 and the team won the Premier League title six times, the FA cup twice and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. Beckham captained the England team for six years and, since leaving Manchester United in 2003, has played for Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain. He received an OBE in 2003 and in 2010 he was presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Alhough he is an internationally recognisable figure, this portrait of Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson (b.1967) gives us a view with which we are unfamiliar. The potential dynamism both of the moving image and of the subject is quietened and Beckham is depicted in a moment of repose. It is a private-seeming portrayal and this sense is enhanced by the perceived documentary or real-time quality of the film. Eliciting the viewer’s voyeuristic tendency, Taylor-Johnson’s work also speaks of the nature and power of celebrity status in contemporary culture.

Placesback to top

  • Place made: Spain (Madrid, Spain)

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 2004back to top

Current affairs

Armed robbers raid the Northern Bank in Belfast, stealing £26.5 million. Gunmen entered the homes of two bank officials, kidnapping their families and forcing them to let them into the bank, before loading cash into vans and driving away. Police and the British and Irish governments claimed that the Provisional IRA was responsible and several of the people arrested had PIRA, Real IRA and Sinn Féin connections.

Art and science

A fire at Charles Saatchi's art warehouse destroys some of the icons of Brit Art. Hell by Jake and Dinos Chapman, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With and The Hut by Tracey Emin and works by Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Hume and Rachel Whiteread were among the casualties.


An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day causes a tsunami that kills nearly 230,000 people when it hit the coasts of Southeast Asia. The earthquake itself was the second most powerful ever recorded on a seismograph and waves from the tsunami - the most devastating in history - were up to 30 metres high.

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