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David Beckham’s sleeping in the hospital he was born in

A film portrait of David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson is unveiled in its temporary new home at Whipps Cross Hospital, east London (National Portrait Gallery/PA)
A film portrait of David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson is unveiled in its temporary new home at Whipps Cross Hospital, east London (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

A film of David Beckham sleeping has a new home – in the hospital he was born in.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s artwork is being loaned to the ultrasound department at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, east London.

Beckham, 44, was born in the hospital’s maternity unit on May 2 1975 and grew up nearby.

The star, who is captured with a bare torso and his eyes shut in the one hour-long video, following a Real Madrid training session, has given his seal of approval to the National Portrait Gallery loan.

Hospital staff look at the portrait of David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson
Hospital staff look at the portrait of David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

Sarah Tinsley, director of exhibitions and collections at the gallery, said the 2004 film will be its first major loan to a hospital – and a natural fit.

“We looked at a number of different venues with a relationship to David Beckham, including a railway station, a school and a football ground,” she said.

“In the end, the hospital seemed to provide the best environment for showing the work.

“He was born in the hospital so it had a really strong connection.”

The film, made by Fifty Shades Of Grey director Taylor-Johnson, is one of the most popular artworks in the gallery’s collection and is in demand around the world.

Sam Taylor-Johnson
Sam Taylor-Johnson (Ian West/PA)

The “contemplative” piece is a close-up of the former England football captain sleeping, some have said “like a baby”.

Several locations inside the hospital were looked at before they settled on the ultrasound department, which sees around 85,000 people a year.

“What this space provides is a moment of quietness while people are waiting for appointments or coming out,” Tinsley said.

“The work is a very peaceful, very intimate, different kind of portrait … It is quite calming to watch.

“It provides people with something very quiet, something very peaceful to look at.”

The film portrait of David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson has a new homeHospital
The film portrait of David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Johnson has a new home (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

Beckham and Taylor-Johnson approved of the project, Tinsley said, adding: “They’ve both confirmed they’re very happy.”

She added: “The hospital responded wonderfully. They decorated the wall that it sits on, tidied up cabling and bits of pieces, not to make it feel like an art gallery but to present it in the best possible way…”

Previous arts projects at Barts Health NHS Trust have included members of the LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) singing to babies in incubators.

Catsou Roberts, director of Vital Arts, the arts and well-being service for the trust, said: “We did think about (installing it in the maternity unit) but we didn’t think it was appropriate for a variety of reasons.”

She said of its new temporary home: “Some patients might be coming repeatedly, it’s a work that unfolds slowly, you can enjoy it as it unfolds.”

Taylor-Johnson said she was inspired by Michelangelo and pop artist Andy Warhol.

She shot the “painterly film”, entitled David, in a single long take, as a “meditation on celebrity”.

The new loan is part of the Coming Home scheme, which sees 50 portraits of individuals from the national collection travelling to the towns and cities most closely associated with their subjects.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s work, David, will be on display until March 2020 in the ultrasound department at Whipps Cross Hospital and is part of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.

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