Adam Butler  /  AP
Hazel Sutherland of Britain's National Portrait Gallery, right, looks Tuesday at the video of David Beckham at the National Portrait Gallery in central London.
By Jennifer Carlile Reporter
updated 4/27/2004 3:09:10 PM ET 2004-04-27T19:09:10

British soccer star David Beckham’s bedtime habits have made tabloid headlines for weeks. But, the celebrity icon has drawn fresh attention not for who he's allegedly been sleeping with, but simply for sleeping.

Filmed lying on his right side with eyes closed, the 107-minute “intimate portrait” entitled “David” was unveiled at the National Art Gallery in London on Tuesday.

Art-goers and sports fans flocked to the gallery at Trafalgar Square to get a glimpse of the 28-year-old featured in British contemporary artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s video portrait.

“I saw it on TV last night and thought I had better get here early to beat the crowds to it; I think it’s going to be something fairly iconic,” said Kieran, 44, one of the early fans to visit the gallery.

The video, shot in a single take after a training session with Real Madrid in the Spanish capital, is run on a continuous loop.

“Making a portrait of a much-photographed man like David Beckham was a challenge," said Taylor-Wood, whose work in photography and film has earned her international acclaim. "I wanted to create a direct, closely observed study. Filming while he was asleep produces a different view from the many familiar, public images,” she said.

Thousands, if not millions, of photographs have been taken of the former Manchester United player who endorses several products, including soft drinks and cell phones, as well as his own line of children’s wear.

Beckham and his wife Victoria (Posh from the now disbanded pop group Spice Girls) have usually appeared to revel in the media attention. The couple, known in the United Kingdom as the “unofficial royals” were even photographed at their wedding wearing crowns and sitting on thrones.

Although recent sordid tales of Beckham’s alleged infidelity have threatened the father-of-two's family-man image, they have made the public hungrier than ever for news of the midfielder.

On Tuesday, "In bed with Beckham" was not only covered extensively by the British tabloids, but it also was splashed across the front page of the more serious Guardian newspaper.

Door into Beckham’s world
No matter what the latest news and gossip is, the British public feels it only sees a choreographed image of the star. But, for some, Taylor-Wood’s work of art opens a door into Beckham’s world.

“It is an intriguing and intimate portrait of one of England’s finest footballers,” said Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

“We’ve seen so many shots of him, but this is a new angle on him,” said Kieran, who asked that his last name not be used.

“I think it’s the ultimate celebrity statement — it appears to be open and inviting but it’s mysterious at the same time,” said John Sharp, a psychiatric nurse.

Others saw their own impressions of the star mirrored in the work.

“It’s interesting that he’s displayed under an arc — we’ve all sort’ve come to worship him,” said Mary Rose Rivett-Carnac, as she looked at the flat screen embedded in the wall of an otherwise empty white room with a curvature above it.

Most portraits show an emotion or gaze out at their audience, said Grace Williams, noting that the concept of making a portrait of a sleeping person was interesting.

“But, I don’t think we ever get an intimate view of (the Beckhams),” said Williams, who was celebrating her 34th birthday at the gallery.

Whether they looked on with reverence or annoyance, all visitors questioned whether or not Beckham was really sleeping.

“The lighting is very beautiful but very bright — I don’t think he can sleep with it on him like that; he seems very fidgety,” said Mary-Rose Rivett-Carnac, a mother of four who just completed a degree in English Literature and Art History.

Although he is filmed nude from the chest up, he wears gold necklaces, a diamond earring, and black and brown braided leather bracelets.

Bent at the elbow, his right arm supports his head. His other arm starts out curled to his chest, but later moves toward his legs offscreen, bringing whispers from the crowd as to where it may have gone.

As he curls toward the camera a portion of a tattoo is revealed on his upper back, but no snoring, drooling, or unseemly sleep habits come to light.

“Look at his jewelry. …his hair’s magnificently swept back — it looks terribly posed,” said Paul Beardsley, a 40-year-old civil servant.

Williams, who had come to gallery to see a different exhibit, added, “There’s just a single white sheet and a blue backdrop — it makes me wonder if it’s a studio.”

While some lauded the artist’s work and some claimed it wasn’t “real art,” others just enjoyed watching the famous soccer star.

“I just think he looks really cute,” said Clare Maxwell, a 19-year-old art student.

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