The V&A Museum acquires and displays Bowie’s archive

LONDON– From Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, the many faces and inspirations of David Bowie will find a permanent home in London.

Britain’s Victoria & Albert Museum announced on Thursday that it has acquired Bowie’s archive of more than 80,000 objects as a gift from the late musician’s estate. The treasure trove of costumes, musical instruments, letters, lyrics, photos and more will be revealed to the public at a new arts center dedicated to the chameleon-like pop icon.

The David Bowie Center for the Study of Performing Arts is scheduled to open in 2025 as part of the V&A East Storehouse, an offshoot of Britain’s National Museum of Art, Design and Performance, being built in the Olympic Park in east London.

The V&A said the center will provide fans and researchers with insights into the creative process of Bowie, who died in 2016 at the age of 69.

Kate Bailey, the museum’s senior curator of theater and performance, said the archive is an “extraordinary” record of a creator whose “life was art”.

“Bowie is a polymath, he has many facets. He was inspired by all genres and disciplines,” she said. “He’s an artist who really worked in 360 degrees – he drew from literature but also from art history… (and) the places he’s been.”

Born simple old David Jones in a suburb of London in 1947, the musician relentlessly reinvented himself, creating and discarding personalities while navigating musical styles from folk-rock to glam to soul and electronica.

He created a series of larger-than-life stage characters, drawing influences from German expressionist cinema to Japanese kabuki theater. In turn, he has influenced musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers and advertisers.

Some of the items in the archive were part of “David Bowie Is,” a multimedia exhibition that opened after a sold-out run in May V&A in London in 2013.

Some items are iconic, like a multicolored quilted jumpsuit designed by Freddie Burretti for Bowie’s alien rock star creation Ziggy Stardust, Kansai Yamamoto’s futuristic creations for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour, or the Union Jack coat worn by Bowie and Alexander McQueen was designed for the cover of The Earthling album in 1997.

Others are more personal, including letters, handwritten lyrics for songs like the anthem “Heroes,” and notebooks that Bowie kept throughout his life. The archive also contains more than 70,000 photographs, slides and images.

The museum secured the archive from the Bowie estate and also received a £10 million (US$12 million) donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group to display it in V&A East, part of a new cultural and technology district being built on the site of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The David Bowie Estate said that “as David’s life’s work becomes part of the national collections of the UK, he takes his rightful place alongside many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses.”

v&A director Tristram Hunt called Bowie “one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time”.

“Bowie’s radical innovations in music, theatre, film, fashion and style – from Berlin to Tokyo to London – continue to influence design and visual culture, inspiring creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons,” said he.

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