'Whitney!' Coming To Prudential Center

Exhibit on Houston to open as Grammy Museum marks one-year anniversary

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: September 10, 2018

The life and career of Whitney Houston will be celebrated at Prudential Center's Grammy Museum Oct. 19-June 30.

The Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center will host “Whitney!,” an exhibit that celebrates the career of six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston, starting Oct. 19. The opening coincides with the one-year anniversary of the museum inside the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. 

"What makes this so special is that the exhibit will be displayed in Newark, which was Whitney's hometown," said Bob Santelli, founding executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

Houston, whose first album made her a star in 1985, sold more than 200 million albums, singles and videos internationally throughout her career. 

“Whitney!” opened at the Los Angeles Grammy Museum in 2012 six months after the singer’s death to "give fans a place to emotionally connect with her" and closed after three months "with the idea that we would redo the exhibit and make it more retrospective," Santelli said.

"We always thought the next stop for the exhibit should be her hometown," he said.

Hugh Weber, president of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns Prudential Center, called Houston’s career “dynamic and illustrious” in a statement and said “her connection and impact on the city of Newark will forever be celebrated.”

Nearly all the pieces in the exhibit collection are on loan from the Houston family. "The exhibit is meant to contextualize the importance of Whitney Houston's music career," Santelli said. "We also want to shed light on her brief modeling career, and tell her story: where she was born, how she was raised, and how that upbringing launched such a tremendous career. Combined, the pieces we have tell Whitney's story in a way it's never been told."

Objects on display include stage and modeling outfits, Houston’s scrapbooks, personal items, awards and a series on audiovisual stations that show footage from Houston's career and interviews with people who worked with her.

The exhibit will also feature never-before-seen artifacts including Houston’s childhood Bible and the last Bible she carried with her; the Marc Bouwer outfit from the “I’m Your Baby Tonight" tour in 1991; the Dolce & Gabbana full-length fur worn during the “My Love Is Your Love” tour in 1999; and the red leather Versace pant suit Houston wore during the 2002 MTV European Music Awards performance of “Whatchulookinat.”

"We have rare footage of Whitney singing with (Newark’s) New Hope Baptist Church choir and key Grammy performances from her career," Santelli said. "Together they tell the story that Whitney was not only one of the great vocalists of our time but also one the great entertainers." Houston provided some of the most powerful performances in Grammy show history, he said.

Houston’s death at the age of 48 in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel was ruled an accidental drowning in the coroner’s report, which listed heart disease and drug use as contributing factors.  "We don't shy away from the fact that Whitney suffered from personal demons that inevitably cut her career short," Santelli said.

A typical guest will spend an hour touring the Whitney! exhibit; a superfan "might take two hours," Santelli said. Merchandise created for the exhibit will be available for sale.

Access to the exhibit is included with admission to the museum, which costs $10 for adults. “Whitney!” will be on display in Prudential Center's temporary exhibit space, now housing a Taylor Swift exhibit.

Houston’s sister-in-law, Pat Houston, in a statement representing the singer’s estate, expressed thanks to the Grammy Museum and Prudential Center for offering fans “the opportunity to experience ‘The Voice’ in Newark, where it all started.”

The Grammy Museum hopes to take the tour to other museums, but no schedule has been set, Santelli said.

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: September 10, 2018