David Bowie is many things to many people. David Bowie Is is also the name of the new exhibition at The Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A have been given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of this Space Oddity - one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times.
Left - A Kansai Yamamoto creation for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973)
More than 300 objects have been brought together for the very first time. They include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments and album artwork. On display is more than 60 stage-costumes including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973) and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997). Also on show is photography by Brian Duffy, Terry O’Neill and Masayoshi Sukita; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; visual excerpts from films and live performances including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Saturday Night Live (1979); music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging (1979) and Let’s Dance (1983) and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974).
Alongside these is more personal items such as never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas. Martin Roth, Director of the V&A, says, "David Bowie is a true icon, more relevant to popular culture now than ever. His radical innovations across music, theatre, fashion and style still resound today in design and visual culture and he continues to inspire artists and designers throughout the world. We are thrilled to be presenting the first ever exhibition drawn from the David Bowie Archive."
TheChicGeek says “I’ve never seen a Press View so busy, which shows how highly Bowie is respected by people in the press and also how busy the exhibition is going to be when it opens to the public on Saturday.
Bowie is one of the few artists to balance cult status with commercial success and the exhibition puts him as the central driving force behind everything he did. There is no management or puppet-master pulling the strings or making anything feel contrived or obvious. There’s a lot of context, with art pieces by Carl Andre or Gilbert & George, giving an idea and background of the things that was influencing Bowie at particular points in his career.
The exhibition has Bowie's greatest hits of stage looks - Starman, Life on Mars etc and a mix of outfits and costumes by well known designers like Thierry Mugler and surprising labels like Armani, as well as less known people like Kansai Yamamoto and Peter J.Hall. I've always been obsessed by the suit Bowie wore at Live Aid and could never find out who the tailor was. Here it is, by Freddie Burretti and was original made in 1974 and altered for Live Aid in 1985.
As you would expect from the V&A, the exhibition is beautifully done and the headphones that you wear throughout, subtly mix the commentary and music from one exhibit to another. The videos and songs come alive with the help of the soundtrack and the Bowie masks on the mannequins made it easier to picture Bowie in his outfits.
The only minor negative, it did feel like there was a lot of beginning and an end and not enough in between. But, you know an exhibition must be good when it leaves you wanting more."
Until 11th August 2013
More images are below