What is a "Velvet Elvis"?
There was a period in commercial “art” when hack painters used black velvet to paint on; the texture gave an illustrative , smooth effect to naturalistic pictures, notably portraits – almost the opposite of a “painterly” effect. These low-priced and low-skill velvet “art products”, mass-produced and cheaply mounted, were sold on the roadside, at gas stations, parking lots, and other publicly available sites, from a car or van, to passers-by. Their commonness and low creative levels gave them a bad reputation as art, and to hang one in one’s home was, for a while in the late 20th century, an outside sign of “bad taste.” Elvis Presley’s image, in the public domain, was one popular product of this commercial enterprise (another was “The Last Supper.” ) Today, the term “Velvet Elvis” is a metaphor for generally poor taste, obvious superficial art, and classlessness. Ironically, some people who collect popularist memorabilia from bygone eras have given Velvet Elvis a new value, as a collectors’ item, like Beanie Babies, Barbie Dolls, and slot cars.