ELLE visits the 'David Bowie Is' exhibition at the V&A

It opens to the public on Saturday


This morning ELLE previewed the year's mostly eagerly anticipated exhibition – the Victoria and Albert museum’s ‘David Bowie Is’.

After so much hype in the run-up to the opening, it could have been an anti-climax, but we’re very happy to report that this show is anything but. Charting Bowie’s journey from suburban childhood to superstardom, Bowie geeks will be able to seriously indulge their passion.


Our highlights? Original handwritten lyrics to ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Fashion’; The ‘Ziggy Stardust’ jumpsuit designed by Freddie Burretti; footage of Bowie talking about how he writes his songs; incredible photos of the man himself, from album artwork to candid backstage shots, taken by everyone from Helmut Newton to Herb Ritts; props from his movies, including ‘The Man Who Came to Earth’ and ‘Labyrinth’; and floor-to-ceiling screens showing footage of music videos and performances.


Aside from opening up his archives and doing a spot of fact checking, David Bowie has had no hand in the exhibition, leaving curators Victoria Broakes and Geoffrey Marsh to interpret the work. They’ve been careful to compile a ‘work in progress’ rather than a retrospective - and the result feels thoroughly modern and seriously cool. Just like its subject.

The Starman didn’t make an appearance at the exhibition’s gala dinner last night, but while the curators would love him to see their handiwork, they were upbeat. ‘I’m not going to lose any sleep on it’, Geoffrey Marsh told us. ‘People say, of course he’ll come, anyone whose had a major exhibition about themselves in a major museum in a major city has got to come. That’s the reason that he probably won’t - he goes against the flow and that's really fascinating.’

And it seems that the timely release of Bowie’s first album in a decade, ‘The Next Day’, really wasn’t a clever PR strategy on the museum's part. ‘The thing is, we didn’t know about the album coming out,’ confides Broakes, ‘and it was extraordinary because Jonathan Barnbrook, who designed the book and some the show, also designed the album cover and he never mentioned it to us - we had no idea.’

‘David Bowie Is’ at the V&A is open from 23 March 2013 – 11 August 2013

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