A large chromogenic print photograph of Michael Phelps, taken by Ryan McGinley, has been installed on the first floor of the National Portrait Gallery’s north wing.
The photograph, which was first on display when the museum reopened in July 2006, shows Phelps underwater, with his right arm reaching toward the surface, bubbles streaming from his nose.
What imagery! A manorexic and submerged Phelps, carving through the water with those apish arms and that unnaturally long torso! Not for me, and here’s why: It’s a little disappointing to witness the deification of an athlete whose achievements aren’t fueled by steroids or blood doping (or in the case of baseball great Dock Ellis, acid use). Where’s the drama? The intrigue? The tragic flaw? The most exciting bit of news to come out about Phelps is that he eats a lot. Surely there’s more to this guy than his calorie intake?
The photo (which I’m pretty sure is the same as the one featured in this post) will be on display until January 2009, and it’s more of the front-page same: Phelps as aquatic monster. If the NPG really wanted to make a splash, it should have framed a larger-than-life picture of Phelps nearly bursting from his super suit.