Few people can lay claim to having the venerable V&A Museum in London’s leafy South Kensington honour them with an exhibition all of their own. However the perennial rock star David Bowie is not your average person. This reclusive individual whose presence has infiltrated all aspects of pop culture from music and fashion to film and art for more than 40 years, is the subject of the V&A’s latest blockbuster exhibition (reputedly their fastest selling ever) which opens to the public this weekend.
David Bowie is charts the singers career from his humble beginnings in South East London to his present day superstar status, through a collection of original costumes and artefacts from his private archives highlighted by pictures, recordings and film footage. The result will be heaven for Bowie fans, and a mind-boggling introduction to the ‘Thin White Duke’ for those less familiar with his work (if any such people exist).
Like the man himself the exhibition could be summed up in one word, eclectic. Leading the visitor on a guided tour of Bowie’s extraordinary life and career the show is divided into various sections introduced by a phrase starting with David Bowie is then finishing by describing the following area, i.e. ‘David Bowie is making himself up’ which focuses on the amazing array of costumes he has worn for his various concerts, public appearances and in photographs.
The introduction to the show, like a biography, looks briefly at his upbringing and early attempts to break into the music business. However it really opens up when detailing his first hit album Space Oddity in 1969, which the BBC played over their footage of the Apollo 11 launch and moon landing. From then on you are subjected to a psychedelic attack on the senses as you’re guided through the landmark events of Bowie’s life from the early 1970’s up to the present day.
Unsurprisingly some sections stand out. ‘David Bowie is taking advantage of what the moment offers’ investigates his collaborations with various creative forces including the designer Kansai Yamamoto, whose famous stripped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane Tour in 1973 is one of the highlights of the exhibition. Most interesting to film fans will be David Bowie is wearing many masks‘ which looks at his work as an actor, including posters and props from Labyrinth (1986) the fantasy film he starred in for filmmaker Jim Henson. A handwritten letter from Henson saying how he hopes Bowie will be able to be part of the film takes pride of place here.
No look at Bowie would be complete without mention of his concerts and the personas he embraces when performing on stage. The last room but one is given over to huge video walls with seats placed beneath where the visitor can sit and watch archive footage from his concerts, allowing them to become part of the Bowie experience themselves.
Appropriately the exhibition ends in a room showing a constantly changing montage of images chronicling the way in which Bowie has consciously and subconsciously effected our everyday life through the worlds of fashion, art and film, with everything from a Kate Moss Vogue cover to a piece of Lego. If this final display, and the exhibition as a whole, proves anything, it is that David Bowie has passed from being a mere person, to being an icon who will influence life on planet earth long after he has left it.
David Bowie is in partnership with GUCCI and sound experience by SENNHEISER, runs at the V&A Museum from 23rd March until 11th August 2013. Details of various events to coincide with the exhibition as well as the opening times and ticket prices etc, can be found on the museum’s website at: http://www.vam.ac.uk