Global Travel Media » Blog Archive » David Bowie is (New)

Home » Attraction » Currently Reading:

David Bowie is (New)

April 7, 2014 Attraction No Comments Email Email

David Bowie is presents the first international exhibition of the extraordinary career of David Bowie—one of the most pioneering and influential performers of our time.

The exhibition focuses on his creative processes and collaborative work with artists and designers, and demonstrates how his work has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, music, and theater. The exhibition’s multimedia design introduces advanced sound technology by Sennheiser and video installations to create an immersive journey through Bowie’s artistic life. David Bowie is was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago from September 23, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

The MCA is the only US venue for this groundbreaking exhibition. Michael Darling, the MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator says, “This exhibition portrays an artist in control of his practice who recognizes that the smallest details contribute to the overall aesthetic experience of the audience. Bowie’s peerless understanding of the importance of image cultivation and reinvention make him a comfortable fit with others in the MCA Collection and exhibition history, such as Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol—and similar to many artists working today, he has never limited himself to one area of cultural production.

“The MCA’s history has been built on a multidisciplinary understanding of creativity from its founding in 1967, and the combination of exhibitions, performances, and programs we present today reflect that wide-angle view of contemporary art. This exhibition repatriates David Bowie, the musical innovator, into the territory of cutting-edge visual and performing art that is his natural home.”166034_num695572_600x600

The exhibition brings together more than 300 objects, including photography, album artwork, handwritten lyrics, original fashions, set designs, and rare performance material from the past five decades from the David Bowie Archive. David Bowie is takes an in-depth look at how David Bowie’s music and radical individualism has inspired others to challenge convention and pursue freedom of expression.

On display are more than 60 stage creations including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Buretti; Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant attire for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973); and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997). Also on view is photography by Brian Duffy, Terry O’Neill, and Masayoshi Sukita; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; cover proofs by Barnbrook for the latest album The Next Day (2013); visual excerpts from films and live performances, including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Saturday Night Live (1979); music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging (1979) and Let’s Dance (1983); and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974). Alongside these are 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 writings, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas.

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), it shows how he was inspired by innovations in art, theater, music, technology, and youth culture in Britain in the aftermath of World War II. Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name ‘David Bowie’ in 1965 and went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer, to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his later career.

On display are early photographs, LPs from his musical heroes such as Little Richard, and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The King Bees in the 1960s. This opening section concludes with a focus on Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom, who would be revisited by Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie’s breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.

The exhibition moves on to examine David Bowie’s creative processes from song writing, recording, and producing, to designing costumes, stage sets, and album artwork. Working within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section reveals the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theater, and avant-garde mime, to West End musicals, German Expressionism, and Japanese Kabuki performance.

On view are some of Bowie’s own musical instruments, footage and photography of recording sessions for Outside (1995) and ‘Hours…’ (1999), as well as handwritten lyrics and word collages inspired by William S. Burroughs’ ‘cut up’ method of writing that have never previously been publicly displayed.

David Bowie is chronicles his innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalized stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation, Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy’s daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signaling a challenge of social traditions and inspiring people to shape their own identities. On display is the original multi-colored suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, as well as outfits designed for stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. Costumes from The 1980 Floor Show (1973), album cover sleeves for The Man Who Sold the World (1970), and Hunky Dory (1971), alongside press clippings and fan material, highlight Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.

The final section celebrates David Bowie as a pioneering performer both on stage and in film, concentrating on key performances throughout his career. An immersive audio-visual space presents dramatic projections of some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995), as well as recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973, and D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973). A separate screening room shows excerpts and props from Bowie’s feature films such as Labyrinth (1986) and Basquiat (1996). In addition, this gallery traces the evolution of the lavishly produced Diamond Dogs tour (1974), the design of which was inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Bowie’s tours combined choreography and colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theater to unprecedented heights. On display are previously unseen storyboards and tour footage for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show. An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the stylish Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 while living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy. David Bowie is concludes with a room of towering projections of footage from his signature concert tours as well as the costumes that defined them.


The exhibition was originally organized for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, by curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh. Victoria Broackes is Head of Exhibitions for the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V&A and Geoffrey Marsh is the Director of the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V&A. At the MCA, the exhibition is curated by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. The V&A is the world’s greatest museum of art and design, with collections unrivalled in its scope and diversity. The V&A’s outstanding collections represent over 3000 years of creativity from across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The Museum offers internationally acclaimed temporary exhibitions, complementing the Museum’s permanent collection, taking a look in depth at a broad range of subjects including design, fashion, photography, architecture, decorative arts, painting, and sculpture.

Exhibition Tour

Victoria and Albert Museum, London: March – August 2013
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto: September – November 2013
Museum of Image and Sound, Sao Paulo, Brazil: January – April 2014
Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin: May – August 2014
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago: September 2014 – January 2015
Philharmonie de Paris | Cité de la Musique, Paris: March – May 2015
Groninger Museum, the Netherlands: December 2015 – March 2016


The exhibition is complemented by a richly illustrated book edited by Victoria and Albert Museum curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh. It includes contributions from leading academics and experts in musicology and cultural history. This publication is the first to draw in full from the David Bowie Archive.

Hours and Tickets

The MCA presents David Bowie is from September 23, 2014 to January 4, 2015.
Tickets go on sale to the public on July 31, and to MCA Members on July 15, 2014.
Tickets to see David Bowie is are $25 which also includes general admission to the museum.
The MCA has extended hours during the exhibition (closed on Mondays):

 Tuesdays: 10 am – 8 pm
 Wednesdays: 10 am – 5 pm
 Thursdays: 10 am – 8 pm
 Fridays: 10 am – 10 pm
 Saturdays and Sundays: 9 am – 6 pm

David Bowie in The Kon-rads, photograph by Roy Ainsworth (1963)
David or ‘Davie’ Jones, as he was then, became heavily involved in London’s burgeoning music scene at a young age. Before leaving school at the age of 16, he had already joined the band The Kon-rads, playing saxophone and singing vocals. Demonstrating the experimental energy that has driven his solo career, Bowie spent the 1960s trying out different musical, artistic, and sartorial styles and performing with several different bands. In 1965 he changed his stage name to David Bowie. The exhibition features several objects from Bowie’s early career including sketches of set, costume and poster designs created for his first bands, and footage of early performances.

Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Freddie Buretti (1972)
On July 6, 1972, David Bowie performed Starman, the first single from his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, on BBC One’s Top of the Pops. This pivotal performance was crucial in making Bowie a music star and is acclaimed as a watershed moment which changed rock music and youth culture. Appearing on national television with flame-orange hair, make-up, multi-colored clothing, and red patent boots, Ziggy’s otherworldly look and sexual ambiguity created a seismic shift in pop culture. The exhibition features the original suit and boots created by Freddie Buretti and designed in collaboration with Bowie, who took inspiration from the costumes worn by the ‘droogs’ street gang in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Brian Duffy photograph of David Bowie for the Aladdin Sane album cover (1973)
Influenced by contemporary performance art and theatrical traditions, David Bowie was drawn to create dramatic, fictionalized stage personas. His sixth studio album marked the birth of the ‘schizophrenic’ character Aladdin Sane who was a development of the space-age Japanese-influenced Ziggy Stardust. To create the compelling album cover image, Bowie collaborated with photographer Brian Duffy, Celia Philo, and make-up artist Pierre Laroche. The result was one of the most recognizable images in popular culture; a ‘lightning flash’ design which has been reproduced in multiple forms world-wide and referenced by celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kate Moss. On display is Brian Duffy’s contact sheet from the Aladdin Sane album cover shoot.

Cut up lyrics by David Bowie for ‘Blackout’ from “Heroes” (1977)
David Bowie is an active participant in every stage of his artistic output from songwriting, recording, and producing, to designing costumes, stage sets, and album artwork. As part of the creative process he often adapts techniques from other creative practices and artists. Examples include the ‘cut up’ method of writing introduced to him by William S. Burroughs and the ‘Oblique Strategies’ cards developed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, which were used on occasion to inspire new ideas and approaches during recording sessions. Featured in the exhibition are handwritten lyrics for songs including Fame (1975), “Heroes” (1977) and Ashes to Ashes (1980), recording notes and Bowie’s personal instruments.

Kansai Yamamoto bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour, photograph by Masayoshi Sukita (1973)
Bowie first saw the work of Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto at the exhibition Kansai in London in 1971. He could not afford the original designs so he copied the look instead, recruiting friends such as Natasha Korniloff and Freddie Buretti to create cheaper versions of Yamamoto’s signature bodysuits and platform boots. After the success of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie approached Yamamoto and commissioned a set of even more flamboyant stage costumes for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973. These outfits, inspired by the style of Japanese samurai and kabuki actors, are outrageous, sculptural, and eye-catching. The exhibition features several Kansai Yamamoto costumes including the black-and-white striped bodysuit and a white cloak with Japanese kanji lettering spelling out ‘David Bowie.’ A flamboyant suit from Yamamoto’s 1971 exhibition is also on display.

Terry O’Neill photograph of David Bowie in promotional shoot for Diamond Dogs (1974)
Over the past 50 years Bowie has collaborated with numerous internationally acclaimed photographers to capture the style and energy of his music and stage performances. The exhibition features the original contact sheets for the Diamond Dogs promotional shoot taken by Terry O’Neill. The contact sheets depict a seated Bowie relaxed in a Spanish Cordoba hat, unperturbed by the enormous, rearing dog to his right and reveal the piece of meat towards which the dog was leaping. Also on display is striking performance and fashion photography taken by photographers including Brian Duffy, Frank Ockenfels, Herb Ritts, and John Rowlands.

Set model for Diamond Dogs tour, designed by Jules Fisher and Mark Ravitz (1974)
Released in 1974, David Bowie’s album Diamond Dogs marked the end of his Glam Rock period and heralded a radical shift in style. It was promoted by a US tour directed and choreographed by Bowie and Toni Basil, with a set created by designers Jules Fisher, Mark Ravitz, and set engineer Chris Langhart. The stage set and album evoked a dystopian urban underworld, informed in part by Bowie’s reading of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and William S.

Burroughs’ The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (1971). It was one of the most lavish rock shows ever created and a pioneering development in rock theater. The exhibition showcases the stage set model, alongside the Diamond Dogs album sleeve painting by Guy Peellaert, touring costumes, previously unseen footage from the tour, and storyboards by Bowie for a proposed musical that was eventually transformed into the album and stage show.

Photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth, directed by Nicolas Roeg, featuring David Bowie (1975-76)
As well as achieving international success as a musician and performer, David Bowie has had an extensive acting career. As a young man, Bowie studied avant-garde mime under the tutorship of mime artist and choreographer Lindsay Kemp. In 1976 Bowie starred in his first feature-film The Man Who Fell to Earth directed by Nicolas Roeg. Bowie’s charisma and air of other-worldliness were ideally suited to the role of an extraterrestrial, Thomas Jerome Newton, who becomes stranded on Earth. Roeg cast him after watching the Bowie documentary Cracked Actor (1974), reputedly waiting eight hours to talk over the project with Bowie who had forgotten the appointment. The cover artwork of Bowie’s next two albums Station to Station and Low both incorporate stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth showing Bowie in character. The exhibition features excerpts from the film in a specially designed screening room.

Natasha Korniloff Pierrot costume designed for the Scary Monsters… (and Super Creeps) album cover shoot and the Ashes to Ashes music video, photograph by Brian Duffy (1980)
One of Bowie’s long time collaborators is the costumier Natasha Korniloff who created a number of outfits for Ziggy Stardust shows including the Rainbow Theatre concerts (1972) and The 1980 Floor Show (1973). Korniloff also designed the Pierrot costume featured on the album cover for Scary Monsters… (and Super Creeps) (1980) and worn by Bowie in the pioneering Ashes to Ashes music video, co-directed with David Mallet. The exhibition includes the original silver Pierrot costume and storyboards hand-drawn by Bowie for the Ashes to Ashes music video.

John Rowlands photograph of David Bowie performing as The Thin White Duke on the Station to Station tour (1976)
The Thin White Duke is a stage persona identified with Bowie’s album Station to Station (1976). Dressed with stylish simplicity in white shirt, black trousers, waistcoat, with slicked-back blonde hair and a packet of Gitanes cigarettes, The Thin White Duke evoked the atmosphere of 1920s Berlin. Inspired by the West End production of Cabaret (1968) starring Judi Dench, the stage set for the Station to Station tour was bathed in stark white light emphasizing The Thin White Duke’s monochrome theatricality. Costumes for the tour were designed by Ola Hudson, some of which are on display.

David Bowie self-portrait in pose also adopted for the “Heroes” album cover (1978)
In the late 1970s Bowie left the pressures of stardom in L.A. behind and moved to Berlin, together with Iggy Pop, in search of new inspiration and a life of relative anonymity. There he started work on the pioneering series of albums known as the Berlin Trilogy. Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979) were recorded in collaboration with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, and are among Bowie’s most experimental albums introducing electronic music, improvisation, and a new range of sonic effects into his repertoire. The exhibition looks at influences such as Dadaism, German Expressionism, and cabaret on Bowie’s work during his Berlin years and features postcards, flyers, and paintings produced during this period.

Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat designed in collaboration with David Bowie for the Earthling album cover, photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3 (1997)
David Bowie’s style has had a significant impact on fashion worldwide and throughout his career he has shown a unique ability to anticipate future trends. He has worked with many fashion designers including Alexander McQueen, Hedi Slimane, Giorgio Armani, Thierry Mugler, Issey Miyake, and Kansai Yamamoto. The exhibition features the original Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat worn on the Earthling album cover (1997) and designed in collaboration with Bowie. This coat combines elements of classic British design, represented by the Union Jack, and expert tailoring learned by McQueen on Saville Row, with an iconoclastic and subversive punk aesthetic.

Comment on this Article:

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Platinium Partnership


Elite Partnership Sponsors


Premier Partnership Sponsors


Official Media Event Partner


Global Travel media endorses the following travel publication