David Bowie Is – A Musical Innovator & British Cultural Icon

Detail: Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973. Photograph by Brian Duffy © Duffy Archive courtesy V & A Museum at London

A major exhibition, and their fastest-selling event ever, is now on at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V &A) at London until July 28, 2013 . The show is entitled David Bowie Is. For David Bowie fans the V & A at London have laid on their dream show. From his bolero to a fabulous coat fashioned on the British flag there are 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork and rare performance material from the past five decades.

Considered one of the most influential performers of his age, pioneering and presenting the very best of British in musical innovation and striking visual presentation, Bowie has become renowned; known for his distinctive voice, intellectual depth and for creating a cult around himself that is all encompassing.

The marvelous museum where the show is taking place is full of simply amazing stuff,  possibly every child in Britain’s favourite playground.

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997 Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3 © Frank W Ockenfels 3 courtesy V & A Museum at London

Actress Tilda Swinton, whose looks are often compared to Bowie’s, giving a speech that was an honouring tribute to the iconic star on opening night said We’re in the Victoria and Albert Museum preparing to rifle through your drawers?. It’s truly an amazing thing’.

Of Bowie Swinton said…”you pulled us in and left your arm dangling over our necks…and kept us warm – as you have for – isn’t it ? – centuries now… you were, you are one of us. And you have remained the reliable mortal in amongst all the immortal shapes you have thrown”. she said.

The V & A have had access to Bowie’s vast personal archive of costume and memorabilia, that helped him to define his cutting-edge artistry.

David Bowie’s work, asserts the show’s curator, has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, theatre and contemporary culture.

The exhibition focuses on his creative processes, his ever shifting style and the innovative collaborative work he has carried out with diverse designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre and film.

Close David Bowie by Mick Rock David Bowie, photograph by Mick Rock, 1972, 1973. Copyright Mick Rock 2013 courtesy V & A Museum at London

There is his Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, photography by Brian Duffy; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; visual excerpts from films and live performances including The Man Who Fell to Earth, music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974).

Mick Rock, a rock and roll photographic specialist, often referred to as ‘The Man Who Shot the Seventies’, has also provided some outstanding imagery for viewers and voyeurs alike to ponder.

Alongside these are more personal items, such as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas.

London being a kind of catch-all design capital that produces great designers, is a great place for any young person on the make championing the country’s identity in design.

In his lifetime Bowie has confounded all the critics, he even become an internet pioneer as part of his ever-changing story. This included having a banker named David Pullman create ‘Bowie Bonds’ and introduce them on the institutional market where they were available for a decade.

Now retired since 2007, Bowie is once again sole owner of his music and royalties.

Bowie fanatics it seems will get more than their money’s worth, as the exhibition pays homage to his unique self-expression.

Previously unseen footage of some of his tours reveal that he pioneered the idea of a theatrical tour, which is now a multi million dollar pop industry.

The exhibition is sponsored by Gucci. Designer Frida Giannini, a longtime fan of Bowie recently told Vogue: “Bowie’s shameless androgyny helped women express their masculine strength without losing their feminine glamour and sensuality.”

From a fashion angle the show’s suits reveal absolute mastery in tailoring including the wide-lapelled black suit, white bow tie and black fedora hat that he wore when presenting a Grammy to Aretha Franlin in 1975.

The ’70’s is the period that really says all about Bowie, his talent, his genius for innovative design, his ability to project the image he wanted people to bond with and as a modern dandy, be seen as the most stylish of all those on stage.

His extraordinary ability to appear androgynous was game-changing and still resonates on and through popular culture in the contemporary age.

Displayed alongside is Ziggy Stardust bodysuit is an early video that defines the moment in time when through line, silhouette and personal presence Bowie shaped and presented himself as a formative influence on fashion forever, making his music ‘look how it sounds’.

David Bowie is…

Victoria and Albert Museum
23 March – 11 August 2013

In partnership with Gucci Sound experience by Sennheiser

The V&A has been given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie. Our exclusive product range, produced to accompany the exhibition, features books on Bowie including our beautiful exhibition catalogue and a Collector’s Edition signed by Bowie, a range of limited edition and hard-to-find prints, DVDs, CDs and vinyls, printed t-shirts and an exclusive collection of postcards and accessories to commemorate this long-awaited retrospective exhibition.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.