LONDON’S V&A MUSEUM OPENS A MAJOR NEW EXHIBITION THIS COMING WEEKEND AND, EARLIER THIS WEEK, THE MOUTH MAGAZINE WAS INVITED TO VISIT FOR A SPECIAL PREVIEW OF DAVID BOWIE IS…
The exhibition is a staggering celebration of 45 years of a unique style icon, and contains hundreds of artefacts borrowed from the artist’s personal archive. Unsurprisingly, it reveals David Bowie to be so much more than just a musician. Enormously imaginative in the way it presents and then contextualises his achievements as modern art, DAVID BOWIE IS is a breathtaking experience for anyone with even only a passing interest in the work.
After an initial area concerning the influences, youth and early forays of David Jones, the remainder of the exhibition deliberately presents everything out of chronological order, as if to further emphasise the Bowie’s explosive creativity. It uses scores of immaculate stage costumes, elaborate design drafts and precise notes, musical instruments, unreleased photographs and surprising personal artefacts to illustrate a fervent mind – and reveals perhaps just a little of the man behind the legend.
Jones was born in Brixton in 1947 and, as the guest in this special edition of The Mouthcast comments, even early photographs present the face of a star. Jones’ mid-1960s attempts to find fame were unsuccessful, and the London art school kid turned on by the visceral thrill of music, the intellectual buzz of culture, had to continually rethink his approach to gaining the success – the stardom – he desired. A pattern was set for continually shifting image and presentation, so as he passed through cult status to a position of great influence no Bowie record or look was the same as any which had passed before and, ultimately, he could remain relevant. David Bowie is… all sorts of things to all sorts of people during all sorts of years.
The V&A’s exhibition displays key iconic costumes such as the Freddie Burretti jumpsuit worn for the career-changing TV performance of STARMAN and the Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat from the EARTHLING album cover – and there are dozens more. Some are not as familiar as others but all are fascinating in demonstrating the meticulous attention to detail of Bowie’s artistic presentation. There are early-stage artwork variants for much-loved album covers, storyboards Bowie drew out for several of his groundbreaking videos, handwritten lyrics and personal photos. There are also surprisingly poignant exhibits: a cocaine spoon from the STATION TO STATION period, the keys to Bowie’s apartment in Berlin from the late 1970s, his painting of Iggy Pop and, touchingly, David Jones’ saxophone and guitar displayed alongside his most prized possession from childhood, a publicity photo of Little Richard.
It’s difficult to come away without feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer determination and force of personality of David Jones and his lifetime of working hard at the construction of the legend of David Bowie. There are blind spots (no GLASS SPIDER or Tin Machine) but in the way it presents everything as interrelated individual parts of a huge whole, the exhibition successfully delivers the notion that as a modern artist willing to take risks, and able to assimilate and synthesise a vast array of ideas and influences before arriving at something new, Jones/Bowie is virtually unparalleled. A final exhibit, the V&A commissioned David Bowie Periodic Table, shows his influence stretching into so many things we now take for granted.
Here, co-curator Geoffrey Marsh talks to The Mouth Magazine about the demands of staging the exhibition, and asks whether we can ever truly know who DAVID BOWIE IS …
DAVID BOWIE IS
23 March – 11 August 2013
Exhibition opening times
Daily 10.00 – 17.30
Friday 10.00 – 21.30
Book by phone: +44 (0)20 7907 7073
£15.50 Full, including donation* (+£1.80 booking fee per ticket)
£12.50 Senior citizens, including donation* (+£1.60 booking fee per ticket )
£14.00 Full (+£1.80 booking fee per ticket)
£11.00 Senior citizens (+£1.60 booking fee per ticket)
£9.00 Full-time students, 12 – 17 year olds, ES40 holders, disabled people
(+£1.60 booking fee per ticket)
£23.00 (+£3.20 booking fee per ticket)/£37.00 (+£3.70 booking fee per ticket) Family tickets
(one adult & two 12 – 17-year-olds/two adults and two 12 – 17 year olds)