I was lucky enough to get to see the David Bowie Is exhibition at the V&A. As I couldn’t make the press preview event, they very nicely let me go along the next time I was in London, as it happened I had a meeting at the V&A so I jumped at the chance to go. Like many of you I have grown up with David Bowie’s presence, my mum would play his records when I was a kid and as a child of the 80′s Labyrinth is always going to be my favourite film – I could recite the entire scrip by heart!
“The V&A has been given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie. David Bowie is features over 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments and album artwork.
On display will be more than 300 objects brought together for the very first time Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, photography by Brian Duffy; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Jonathan Barnbrook; visual excerpts from films and live performances including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), music videos such as Ashes to Ashes (1980) and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974). Alongside these will be 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.”
I am finding writing about the exhibition difficult, because there is just so much I want to say about it. There are already many reviews and critiques of the exhibit, so instead I will tell you how I experienced it, as a Bowie fan (and not someone who works with museums, although it can be hard to separate the two).
Before I entered the exhibit, I was given a pair of headphones, this had me intruded, would it be audio commentary? I rounded the corner to me met with the famous Kansai Yamamoto wide leg jumpsuit, by this time I am just about ready to burst with excitement! The headphones spring to life and I delved head first into the early years of David Robert Jones’ musical career.
I won’t go into too much detail as I wouldn’t want to offer spoilers to those of you who are yet to see it. Amongst the song lyrics, photos, costumes and films there are surprises around every corner, tiny holes too peep through taking you to another world, beautifully timed videos which your headphones will belt out classic Bowie songs too, allowing you to loose yourself in the experience. This exhibition is huge, I would recommend 2 hours to really see it all, 3 if you want to read every little snippet. One detail I found charming was seeing the scraps of song lyrics, scribbles and alterations. How would it have been if the famous ‘Fashion, turn to the left…’ lyric had been kept as ‘Shop, shop turn to the left…’
I am not usually one to be left gob-smacked, but entering the centre piece room of the exhibition, a huge auditorium really took my breath away. I was awe struck, at the sheer size, attention to detail and the drama of it all. If you are set to see this exhibition I would recommend you don’t look at any photos before hand as this is a surprise worth waiting for! I actually am itching to go back and spend more time there.
If you can’t make the exhibition the I can recommend picking up a copy of the book, I will have to order one online as it is massive and I couldn’t carry it all the way home. It is available on the website as is a selection of official merchandise- well it wouldn’t be a museum trip without a pencil and sharpener souvenir would it!