The David Bowie show

The V&A has revealed full details of its 2013 blockbuster exhibition David Bowie Is, which has been curated with the man himself and designed by 59 Productions and Real Studios.

Concept visulaisation for David Bowie Is by 59 Productions
Concept visualisation for David Bowie Is by 59 Productions

Barnbrook has worked on the graphic identity of the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue.

The exhibition itself, it seems, will be a broad church for understanding Bowie’s creative processes as a musician and cultural icon.

Album cover shoot for Alladin Sane by Brian Duffy and Celia Philo. Make up by Pierre La Roche 1973

Source: Duffy Archive

Album cover shoot for Alladin Sane by Brian Duffy and Celia Philo. Make up by Pierre La Roche 1973

His changing style *resists pun* and ability to morph into seemingly different people will be scrutinised through 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, associated fashion, photography, film, music videos, set design, his instruments and album artwork.

Cut up lyrics for Blackout from Heroes 1977

Source: The David Bowie Archive 2012

Cut-up lyrics for Blackout from Heroes 1977

Beyond this the exhibition will look to convey a sense of how Bowie’s music, style and vision has sent ripples across art, design and contemporary culture, tackling big themes like challenging convention and the pursuit of freedom of expression.

Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour. Design by Kansai Yamamoto. Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita 1973

Source: Sukita / The David Bowie Archive 2012

Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour. Design by Kansai Yamamoto. Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita 1973

His galactic breadth of influence means Bowie came to collaborate with a cohort of other creatives. There will be more then 60 costumes on display including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits designed by Freddie Burretti (1972), and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for his 1997 Earthling album cover.

David Bowie and William Burroughs 1974. Photograph by Terry O’Neill. Hand colouring by David Bowie

Source: Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © VA Images

David Bowie and William Burroughs 1974. Photograph by Terry O’Neill. Hand colouring by David Bowie

Photography by Brian Duffy, and Terry O‘Neill, album sleeve art by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell, plus set design created for the Diamond Dogs tour will all feature.

Personal effects have been provided by Bowie, who is sharing storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics, his own sketches, scores, and diary entries. In this respect it really looks like a show for completest fans. 

Promotional shoot for The Kon-rads. Photograph by Roy Ainsworth 1963

Source: Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. VA Images

Promotional shoot for The Kon-rads. Photograph by Roy Ainsworth 1963

The beginning of the exhibition will cover Bowie’s formative years, which  Design Week last week touched on when we published a piece about his art teacher Owen Frampton’s memoirs.

As an opening it looks at Bowie’s shape-shifting style, in terms of musical style, sartorially and in attitude which sees him hop-scotch quickly through mod, folk and R&B.

Photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Design by David Bowie, film stills by David James. Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012.

Source: Film stills © STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd

Photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Design by David Bowie, film stills by David James. Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012

A second gallery delves into creative processes, pulling out song writing, recording, producing, designing costumes, stage sets and album artwork. All of this is shrouded in cultural movements including Surrealism, Brechtian theatre and avant-garde mime, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki.

In probably the most eye-opening gesture of the exhibition, this section will explain exactly how albums and touring shows were created around constructed stage personas – demystifying the euolgised and deeply influential Ziggy Stardust hopefully, a challenging beacon for androgynous otherworldliness in the early 1970s.

Original photography for the Earthling album cover. Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie 1997

Source: Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3. © Frank W Ockenfels 3

Original photography for the Earthling album cover. Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie 1997

A final section looks at Bowie as a performer on stage and in film where an immersive AV space will present projections of music videos including DJ (1979) a recently uncovered Top of The Pops performance of Jean Genie (1973), and DA Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973). 

There will also be a host of other films and performances shown in this final gallery, far too long to list here. David Bowie Is, covers, well, everything.

The Archer Station to Station tour. Photograph by John Rowlands. 1976

Source: John Robert Rowlands

The Archer Station to Station tour. Photograph by John Rowlands. 1976

David Bowie takes place at the V&A Cromwell Road SW7 from 23 March – 28 July 2013. 

Hide Comments (2)Show Comments (2)
Comments
  • Deb Chidlow November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    What a brilliant idea! I’ve been a Bowie fan since 1972 when I first saw him singing ‘Starman’ on TOTPS. Have seen him live 7 times, the last time in 2003. I will definitely be coming along to the show. Can’t wait!

  • Alison J Baker November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Can’t wait (although Bowie did not curate this – he only allowed access to his archive and met no-one from the V&A).

  • Post a comment

Latest articles

Remebering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017

We look back on the life and work of the Design Week columnist, independent creative director, and social activist “who helped put black participation on the political map”.