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. Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane (1973), design by Brian Duffy and Celia Philo, make up by Pierre La Roche © Duffy Archive
A new blockbuster exhibition is taking place at the Victoria and Albert Museum: David Bowie is. Focusing on one of the most iconic figures of our time, the show is the first international retrospective of David Bowie’s extraordinary career.
Through this show the V&A explores Bowie’s music and radical individualism, and how it has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design and contemporary culture. It peers into Bowie’s early years and how he was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology and youth culture in Britain, before examining his creative processes throughout the years – from song writing and recording to designing costumes and album artwork.
More than 300 objects are presented, varying from posters and hand-written lyrics to original costumes, photography, and music videos. David Bowie is chronicles his pioneering approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalised stage personas and narratives, and celebrates him as an ground-breaking performer both on stage and in film.
The exhibition takes the viewer even further into Bowie’s world through a truly immersive audio experience, with audio guides automatically playing different soundtracks according to the screens or exhibits the visitors approach.
On display are 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).
Personal items are also featured in this show, giving the viewer a glimpse into Bowie’s universe with never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics, as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries.
The show is also complemented by remarkable performance and fashion photography taken by photographers such as Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands.
Frida Giannini, Gucci Creative Director, said: “David Bowie is… one of my greatest inspirations. His individuality, originality and authenticity have been defining. Through his creative genius his influence on music, fashion, art and popular culture over decades has been immeasurable and will continue to be for decades to come.”