Bowie, and his personas, will live on at Victoria and Albert Museum
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Bowie, and his personas, will live on at Victoria and Albert Museum
Photograph of David Bowie Performing as The Thin White Duke on the
Station to Station tour, 1976. Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. ©
John Robert Rowlands and The David Bowie Archive

by Remy Tumin



LONDON.- Over a 55-year career, David Bowie redefined the essence of cool by embracing an outsider status. Now, Ziggy Stardust and all of the musician’s other personas will have a permanent home.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London will house more than 80,000 items from Bowie’s career at a new David Bowie Center for the Study of Performing Arts, the museum announced Thursday. The center, which will be at a new outpost of the museum called the V&A East Storehouse at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the Stratford section of London, will open in 2025.

“With David’s life’s work becoming part of the U.K.’s national collections, he takes his rightful place amongst many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses,” Bowie’s estate said in a statement. “David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that haven’t been possible before, and we’re so pleased to be working closely with the V&A to continue to commemorate David’s enduring cultural influence.”

Bowie died in 2016, two days after his 69th birthday.

In a statement, the museum said that the acquisition and the creation of the center had been made possible by a combined donation of 10 million pounds (about $12 million) from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group, adding that the donation would support “the ongoing conservation, research and study of the archive.” Warner Music bought Bowie’s entire songwriting catalog last year.

Beyond 70,000 images of Bowie taken by the likes of Terry O’Neill, Brian Duffy and Helmut Newton, the collection includes letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, other photography, film, music videos, set designs, instruments, album artwork, awards, and of course, fashion.

Many of those will be familiar to fans: Bowie’s ensembles worn as his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust; Kansai Yamamoto’s costumes for the “Aladdin Sane” tour in 1973; the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and British designer Alexander McQueen for the 1997 “Earthling” album cover.

Handwritten lyrics for songs like “Fame,” Heroes” and “Ashes to Ashes” will also be on display, including examples of Bowie’s cut-up technique. The artist looked to William S. Burroughs, the postmodern author, as inspiration to cut up written text and rearrange it into lyrics.

In 1997, Bowie told The Times that he worked with that method “about 40% of the time,” which, in that year, meant using a Macintosh computer.

“I feed into it the fodder, and it spews out reams of paper with these arbitrary combinations of words and phrases,” he said.

Bowie’s personal writing and “intimate notebooks from every year of Bowie’s life and career” and “unrealized projects” will also be on display, many of which have never been made available to the public, the museum said.

The permanent collection comes 10 years after the museum created “David Bowie Is,” a vast survey that traced the beginnings of David Jones, a saxophone and blues player growing up in London, as he became David Bowie, a transcendent figure in music, art and fashion. The traveling exhibit made its final stop in 2018 in New York, the city that Bowie called home at the end of his life.

“I believe everyone will agree with me when I say that when I look back at the last 60 years of post-Beatles music, that if only one artist could be in the V&A it should be David Bowie,” Nile Rodgers, a longtime collaborator, said in a statement. “He didn’t just make art. He was art!”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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