Local Current Blog

Prince at the Mall of America: Instruments, costumes, awards go on display

Paisley Park pop-up at Mall of America, October 2016. (Jay Gabler/MPR)

“At least it’s in the part of the mall that has nice floors,” said Andrea Swensson, looking down at the burnished white tile beneath our feet as we walked towards a giant Prince glyph decorating the window of a Mall of America storefront.

We were there to see Prince: The Artist, the Icon, the Legend. It’s a small exhibit of artifacts from the collection of Paisley Park, on display free of charge on Level Three East during regular mall hours through Nov. 14. (No photography is permitted.)

Inside a space that’s about the size of an average Bath & Body Works, nine display cases feature a few dozen different items used by Prince over the course of his long and storied career. Giant photos of Prince adorn the walls, and a few monitors play videos of Prince concerts.

That sounds underwhelming, but when it comes to the items on display, we’re not talking about obscurities. Among the items on display are the jacket and guitar used by Prince when he played the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show; the cane Prince brought to last year’s Grammys; and the gorgeous blue suit, with hand-painted white clouds, Prince wore in the “Raspberry Beret” video.

A few awards are on display, including the “U Got the Look” Moonman and an American Music Award for the best “Black Album” of 1984. (Presented by Huey Lewis and Madonna, of course. He brought the entire Revolution onstage to pick up the award, and held Wendy’s hand while she gave the acceptance speech.) Prince’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trophy shares a case with the suit he wore to his 2004 induction ceremony.

The most fascinating item on display, though, is one that wasn’t mentioned in the press release: a set of storyboards from Purple Rain, featuring location photos and production notes written when Vanity was still expected to star in the role that ultimately went to Apollonia. The storyboards have vintage images of film locations including the Crystal Court and an apartment exterior that was intended to be where Morris Day’s character lived, in a shot that didn’t make the final film.

Production notes refer to Prince’s scripted mention of the “Minnetonka initiation” (in quotation marks on the storyboards). They also describe another scene that was never filmed, in which Prince and Vanity “fight” and…well, another F word while a song called “Busy City” plays in the background. No Prince song by that name has ever been released…maybe it will make the deluxe edition of the soundtrack.

Those storyboards share a vitrine with Prince’s working notebooks from Graffiti Bridge. One thing that you and Prince might have had in common in the ’80s: wide-rule spiral Mead notebooks.

The exhibit is staffed by people wearing the infamously unflattering purple tunics in which all latter-day Paisley Park staff are clad. There’s a small merch stand, next to one of Paisley Park’s gargantuan purple chairs, selling several of the same items that are available for purchase at the studio — including an $80 replica tambourine.

The Mall of America exhibit was first announced amidst the news of an unexpected delay in permanently opening Paisley Park: a gesture of thanks to Prince’s fans for their patience. Especially given that it’s completely free to visit (a Paisley Park ticket is not required for the mall exhibit), it’s totally worth checking out.

While you’re at the mall, you might also want to swing by the Hard Rock Cafe, which has several Prince-related items (stage costumes and instruments) on permanent display.