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David Bowie is: About the Exhibition

23 March – 11 August 2013

Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973. Photograph by Brian Duffy © Duffy Archive

Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973. Photograph by Brian Duffy © Duffy Archive

The V&A was given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie - one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times. David Bowie is explored the creative processes of Bowie as a musical innovator and cultural icon, tracing his shifting style and sustained reinvention across five decades.

The V&A’s Theatre and Performance curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh selected more than 300 objects that were 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.

The exhibition explored the broad range of Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film. On display were more than 300 objects including 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). Alongside these were 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.

Video: Jonathan Barnbrook - David Bowie is

On Tuesday 8 January 2013, the world awoke to the news that David Bowie was releasing a new album following a decade-long hiatus. Graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook talks to 'David Bowie is' exhibition co-curator Victoria Broackes about his work on the album cover and the secrecy that surrounded it. The film also includes Barnbrook's thoughts on his design for the cover of Bowie's 2002 album, Heathen.

View transcript of video

David Bowie by Mick Rock

Mick Rock is a legendary rock and roll photographer often referred to as "The Man Who Shot the Seventies". Beginning his career in 1969 snapping rock and roll artists such as Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, Queen and Iggy Pop, Rock first met David Bowie in early 1972. During the 70s, in his capacity as the official Bowie photographer, many of the iconic images of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust were shot.

Below are a selection of photographs of David Bowie taken by Rock.

Video: David Bowie is blowing our minds

'David Bowie is' opened at the V&A to an extraordinary public and critical reception. To get an understanding of how David Bowie has become among the most influential pop stars of his generation, we sought insights from musician Thurston Moore, artist Jeremy Deller, music journalist Simon Price, dedicated Bowie fan Ziggy Jacobs and artist Daphne Guinness. Between them they trace Bowie's career from the 1960s, and take a close look at his approaches to the creation of music, image and performance.

View transcript of video

Video: David Bowie is One of Us

The V&A, University of the Arts London and David Bowie's former school Ravens Wood School have been working together on a film since January 2013. This interdisciplinary project engaged students in David Bowie's music, performance and art and imagined his influence on present day students at the school.

View transcript of video

You can read previous blog posts on the project which detail it's development each step of the way. Follow the links below to view posts about setting up the project, a visit to the V&A exhibition and a short article by Robert Worby producer of the music the students have composed.

David Bowie is…Getting an Act Together at Ravens Wood School
David Bowie is... bringing us all together
David Bowie is... An Interview with Robert Worby

Video: David Bowie Weekender

The V&A celebrated all things Bowie with a weekend of events including talks, films, music, workshops, special activities and themed events for all ages. Guests listened to Bowie classics being performed in the cafe, experienced walking down the red carpet and watched Jeremy Reed performing his latest poetry. Legendary rock journalist Paul Morley wrote a book about David Bowie over the course of the weekend. Urban artist Pistol created three specially-commissioned canvases and Central Saint Martins MA student Sarah Fortais, known for her interactive sculpture projects and strong Bowie influence filled a wall with Post-It notes of visitors thoughts and memories about Bowie which created an image of the cover of the Aladdin Sane album.

Guests had their photographs taken alongside life-size Bowie cutouts, were transformed into Bowie with facepaints and costume making, took part in a Bowie quiz and listened to various talks by the exhibition curators and by rock and roll journalists Charles Shaar Murray and Barry Miles. There were Kabuki theatre and mime performances and DJ's playing sets throughout the weekend as well as screenings of Bowie films.

View transcript of video

The V&A Shop is home to the official product range that accompanies the David Bowie is exhibition and features the bestselling David Bowie is exhibition catalogue, a range of exclusive limited edition and hard-to-find prints and a collection of postcards and accessories to commemorate this popular exhibition.

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