ABOVE: COLLAGE OF FILM STILLS FROM THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, 1975-76. DESIGN BY DAVID BOWIE; FILM STILLS BY DAVID JAMES. COURTESY OF THE DAVID BOWIE ARCHIVE 2012. FILM STILLS © STUDIOCANAL FILMS LTD. IMAGE © V&A IMAGES.
When David Bowie unexpectedly unleashed the single “Where Are We Now?” this past January after a near-decade-long hiatus and announced the March release of a new album, The Next Day (ISO/Columbia), he shocked his fans around the world—but not all of them. “We had an idea that something was going to happen this year, but we didn’t know what it was,” says Victoria Broackes, one of the curators (along with Geoffrey Marsh) of Theatre and Performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. “I had this image of Bowie as the Wizard of Oz-somewhere there was something being created.”
From March 23 to July 28, the V&A will pull back the curtain on Bowie’s extraordinary sound and vision. “David Bowie is,” which took three years to put together and is sponsored by Gucci, culls more than 300 items from the David Bowie Archive, from his iconic Ziggy Stardust bodysuit (1972) and clips from his film debut, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), to the tattered Union Jack coat that he co-designed with Alexander McQueen and sported on the cover of Earthling (1997). Rarities include Bowie’s stage-set model for his Diamond Dogs tour (1974) and storyboards for an ultimately abandoned musical based on that album, and artwork from his radical mid-’70s period in Berlin. Designed by 59 Productions, a company with a background in notable theater and opera production, the exhibition is an immersive chronicle of Bowie’s career.
“Bowie is a pioneer, not just in music, but also of fashion, theater, videos, internet, and digital downloads,” says Broackes. “We’re doing something we hope will be quite groundbreaking in terms of a museum exhibition, in a way like Bowie is always groundbreaking in whatever he does.”