by Ella Alexander / Vogue
19th March 2013
THE Victoria and Albert Museum’s highly-anticipated David Bowie exhibition opens on Saturday. It is the V&A’s fastest-selling showcase in history, with nearly 48,000 visitors having already booked tickets. Today, we took a preview tour and have selected our highlights to show you.
“We knew it would be big, but the ticket sales have been unprecedented,” assistant curator Kathryn Johnson told us. “But that’s the way music fans buy – it’s as if they’re booking advance tickets for a gig. We want to appeal to both fans and also those who don’t know as much about him. There is a lot to show – it was narrowing it down that was difficult.”
The showcase was three years in the making, using Bowie’s archives as the primary resource. Although from a style perspective, the costumes are a standout highlight, the exhibition offers an unparalleled insight into the mind of one of music’s most enduring and original geniuses. Starting with his childhood in London, the display tracks the various stages in Bowie’s life – from diary-style handwritten notes explaining the inspiration behind his best-known songs, to paintings, music scores, filmed interviews, his instruments and portraits of the men and women who influenced him. Personal drawings and musings regarding his music, appearance and legendary sets expose him as a master of visual communication – a man who intelligently and powerfully delivered his revolutionary take on the world.
“The creative control he kept over all of his work is incredible,” added Johnson. “He always had the idea, then he would choose the right team to help create his spectacular.”
Step into a makeshift studio and hear audio clips of the musician recording; read tributes from some of music’s most famous names; then find out how Bowie shaped the world today. In another room, his favourite books are suspended from the ceiling like low-flying birds. The floor-to-ceiling towering screens of Bowie performing are unequivocally impressive. Juxtaposed against lit-up stacked mannequins dressed in his costumes, and with his music playing loudly, it’s almost like being surrounded by multiple Bowie giants in a Ziggy Stardust-style fantasy.
“I hope people come away feeling inspired to do whatever they want to do – to take what he’s done and make it their own,” said Johnson. “That’s traditionally what has always happened with Bowie. His playfulness makes people want to play. He paved the way for 3-D experiences – he was about sound and vision. He was a true original.”