Tilda Swinton’s dinner speech at the opening of David Bowie is

March 21, 2013

Tilda Swinton at the opening of David Bowie is

Dear Dave

When I asked you if you wanted me to say anything here tonight

You said ‘Only three words, one of them testicular..’

So i’ll pass that on

Here I am at surely the most eclectic of all the London branches of Bowie Anonymous
All the nicest possible freaks are here

We’re in the Victoria and Albert Museum preparing to rifle through your drawers
It’s truly an amazing thing

This was my favourite playground as a child
Medieval armour : my fantasy space wear

And, alongside, when I was 12 – and a square sort of kid in a Round Pond sort of childhood, not far from here – I carried a copy of Aladdin Sane around with me – a full 2 years before i had the wherewithal to play it

The image of that gingery boney pinky whitey person on the cover with the liquid mercury collar bone was – for one particular young moonage daydreamer – the image of planetary kin, of a close imaginary cousin and companion of choice

It’s taken me a long time to admit, even to myself, let alone you, that it was the vision and not yet the sound that
hooked me up – but if i can’t confess that here and now, then when and where?

We all have our own roots
And routes
To this room

Some of us – the enviable – found the fellowship early in the funfests of Billy’s Bowie Nights
or equivalent lodges from San Francisco to Aukland to Heidelberg and all points in between

For others, it was a more lonesome affair, paced out in a sort of private morse code like following bread crumbs through a forest

I’m not saying that if you hadn’t pitched up I would have worn a pie crust collar and pearls like some of those I went to school with
I’m not saying that if you hadn’t weighed in, Princess Julia would have been less inventive with the pink blusher
Simply that, you provided the sideways like us with such rare and out-there company
Such fellowship
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

Nothing more certain than changes

Always with a weather eye out
Always awake and clocking the fallout

Those Mayans must have known something when they set their calendar down before
January 2013

Because, of course, now all bets are off

I know, because you told me, how tickled you were to knock Elvis – for once! – out of the headlines on your shared birthday this year

There’s so much for all of us to be happy about since then

Yet, I think the thing I’m loving the most about the last few weeks
is how clear it now is – how undeniable – that the freak becomes the great unifier
The alien is the best company after all
For so many more than the few

They wanted a Bowie fan to speak tonight. They could have thrown a paper napkin and hit a hundred.
I’m the lucky one, standing up to speak for all my fellow freaks anxious to win the pub quiz and
claim their number one most super-fan tshirt

I want to give thanks to the Victoria and Albert Museum for indulging us so
For laying on our dream show

For showing us – look at their advance ticket sales – that , as is
written along the bottom of this months Q magazine,
‘why we all live in David’s world now’

To Gucci and Sennheiser for putting up the cash, laying on the sound and vision
To Geoffrey and Victoria for curating an entire universe so beautifully, on behalf of us all

When I think of what it used to feel like once
To be a freak who liked you
To feel like a freak like you
– a freak who even looked a little like you

And then I think of the countless people of every size and feather who are going to walk through this trace of your journey here and pick up the breadcrumbs
in the great hub of this mothership over these Spring and Summer months..

And how familiar and stamped you are into ALL of our our collective DNA

I’m just plain proud


Where are we now?

I know you aren’t here tonight, but
Somehow, no matter

We are –
And you brought us out of the wainscotting like so many
Freaky old bastards
Like so many fan boys and girls
Like so many loners and pretty things and dandies and dudes and dukes and duckies and testicular types
And pulled us together

By you
Dave Jones
Our not so absent, not so invisible, friend

Every alien’s favourite cousin
Certainly mine

We have a nice life

Yours aye



23 March – 11 August 2013. 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. David Bowie is featured more than 300 objects that include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie’s own instruments.

In reply to all of your comments about the exhibition: ‘David Bowie is’ has been on an international tour since it closed at the V&A in 2013. It is currently on display at the Groninger Museum, Groningen, the Netherlands until March and will be going to Japan in 2017.


39 comments so far, view or add yours


PLEASE V&A…for the devastating loss we are experiencing now with the passing of such an iconic legend and ultimate rebel hero, could the David Bowie Is exhibition please return to the V&A for those of us that sadly missed it the first time around??

My husband and I was lucky enough to have seen the bowie weekend in april 2013, it was awesome. Very sad loss he was the man who sold the world R.I.P MR BOWIE

Dear V&A – may I echo the comments of fellow poster Sarah and ask if, when the Bowie exhibition as completed its world tour, that it could have a re-run at the V&A? I couldn’t visit back in 2013 and have always regretted it; this regret is amplified ten-told today.

I was lucky enough to see the exhibition in London and again in Berlin. Have to say the curation of the London show was the best! Please please bring it back to London again after its tour so that we can appreciate again the genius of the man and his huge creativity.

I am feeling sorry for the loss of this Icon chameleon!!! I have been a fan since 1972 . I would love if this exhibit came to NYC

I have been a Bowie fan since the 70’s and unfortunately missed the David Bowie Is …. exhibition in 2013 and would love it to be returned to the V&A after the world tour please

Please send this exhibition to Los Angeles or San Francisco. We live midway of the two cities. RIP David Bowie.

This Bowie exhibition back in 2013 sounds amazing! Why not do a world tour of this exhibition to cities that he sang in? Especially Auckland too please.. If not….maybe if this exhibit resumes again at V & A, I want to be notified so I can fly over across the world to see the works and fashion essence of David Bowie as I was too young to see his Western Springs concert back in 1983.. RIP to this amazing man.

I too missed the Bowie Exhibition and would love it to return to the V&A… A truly exceptional artist in everything he created.

Please please bring back the Bowie exhibition! I missed it too and regret it so much, I did at least buy the book, which was brilliant, but would love to visit the exhibition.

The world has lost the formation of my youth…..RIP DB/ZS

THX to bring it to Brazil ! It was such a magical experience :)

I don’t quite know why I should feel so affected by David Bowie’s passing away… but I am and it reminds me of how I felt after Diana’s death… well it may be resumed in the words from the speech above: “And how familiar and stamped you are in All of our collective DNA”.
I walked through the exhibition in London in 2013… and even danced at the very end, a small compensation for not having ever seen Him live!
I left that substitute dance floor feeling I certainly knew him better… but now I feel I’d only just scratched some of Ziggy’s varnish! There’s definitely a lot more He will carry on revealing… as I’m only just beginning to look at the many stars left shining on the blazing trail of the Blackstar… and I can’t help drawing a silver line outlining… the silver lining still shining on the reverse !

Now, after the shocking (in its untimeliness) passing of the avatar David Bowie, there is a whole new, hungry, passionate audience craving to experience anything Bowie, particularly the David Bowie Is exhibition. How can this be brought to the throngs of adulants without diminishing the exquisite refinement that David demanded of his production?

What a loss to the art world. Thank you, David Bowie, for the sound and the vision, the creative inspiration you have given us, rippling without end through time …

Thank you to all who played a part in creating the wonderful film retrospective of David and the 2013 exhibition which I was fortunate to enjoy. The additional screening today was a fantastic tribute, thank you for reminding us of the breadth the of what David gave to us. In the sentiments of one fan in the film .. It was like a 30 year marriage, gone a bit stale and I was taking it for granted…. The exhibition reminded me of what I had and rekindled that passion. The CDs are back out and the David Boeie is book back off the shelf.
Thank you so much for that wonderful film and the chance to enjoy it today when it was all so especially meaningful

Thank you so much V&A for giving us the David Bowie is… Exhibition. I only really got into Bowie’s music during the 1980s when I was growing up as a teenager, and the angst associated with being one, songs like Modern Love summed up life at my local Comprehensive school, with a crush on one particular boy, and accepting I was gay from about the age of 12. His music could affect you in ways no other artist could and I got to enjoy his 70s period as well as the 90s, 00s and right up to date. I went to see the exhibition twice in London, Chicago, again twice in Paris and am going to see it in Gronignen which will be even more poignant given he’s no longer here. RIP David Bowie and thanks for being a part of my background

As so many have posted- PLEASE V&A can “David Bowie is” exhibition RETURN to the V&A for those that missed it the first time, for those who wish to see it again and for young people to be inspired from.

Can I echo all the requests to bring the David Bowie is exhibition back to the V&A – it will clearly be well supported

As I sit here age 53 with black nails covered in glitter, still finding it hard to sleep through the night. I too ask the V&A to bring back the Bowie Exabition. But not just for me but for my son age 30, my daughter age 28 (she came with me to see him in 04) and my youngest age 26 who have been spoonfed Bowie since they where born. It always suprises people when they hear them singing Bowie’s songs (especially when they where 7)
I ask not only for myself, but my children who only know the musician/actor and are yet to know Bowie the artist! For all of us this is important. Please concider all of our requests. thank you

I spent hours at “David Bowie is” in Toronto. Absolutely magical. Please keep it touring. I would love to visit again.

So glad I had the fortune of seeing the “David Bowie is” exhibit while visiting Chicago. Also glad to have purchased the catalogue. Amazing.

Sat bolt upright at 3 am on a summer night in Arizona, circa 1974 to the sound of Space Oddity. Imprinted Diamond Dogs on my heart, saw the man twice: Heroes tour and Serious Moonlight. Made my pilgrimage to my adored V&A to see David Bowie Is…. Dancing to Heroes on the giant screen, so moved I wanted to plant a kiss on the total stranger swaying next to me. No doubt, the most profound muse in my life. I made his lighting bolt my signet and dyed my hair blue. My cat is called Ziggy Stardust. Rock on forever, our thin white duke.

Was fortunate to see “David Bowie Is” in Toronto… was mesmerized…brilliant man.
Would love to see the exhibit again + hope everyone has the chance. Truly exceptional artist.
He will be missed.

Just wanted to echo the sentiments in other posts – please do bring the exhibition back to London. Bowie was an inspiration for so many and the exhibition was outstanding. Will miss him so much.

Please, please, please confirm any plans to bring the David Bowie exhibition back to the V&A or anywhere else in the UK.
I couldn’t see the 2013 showing, but have been a fan since the early 1970’s. First single and album bought, plus first concert ever attended on the 1972 Ziggy tour and have most of his recordings since. Sadly missed.

Early 70’s, on holiday in Bogota from boarding school in Surrey, standing behind the door: leading steps to the playroom,where the record player would comfort my imagination, I listened to you over and over and over again. Not too long now till we meet again, someplace where your lyrics took me.

Saw the exhibition in Groningen. Great, going back for a second time.

I have just realised that you had a beautiful relationship with Mr Bowie, I Hope you have a nice support network to get through his death, I want you to know I loved both your videos of music, videos and such, I am a big fan and adnolegegement of both your artisianment. XXX

It would be wonderful if this exhibition would just keep touring the world. Bowie is… has so much to show, tell and experience. I have seen it (twice), and it has mesmerized me.

I saw this exhibition three times in Melbourne. It felt like finally being home. Finally landing on my planet. On our planet, where we belong. Finally seeing the prettiest star, so close and yet so far. I will never stop missing you and you will never leave me. You are always with us. The world is beautiful because you are here.

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