Photography showing at the V&A: David Bowie and William Burroughs, 1974. Photograph by Terry O’Neill. Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012
❚ WHAT A COUP! FIRST CAME THE OFFICIAL DENIAL. A press release from Bowie Towers last week denied the godlike one’s involvement in an upcoming retrospective exhibition in London at the Victoria & Albert Museum. “I am not a co-curator and did not participate in any decisions relating to the exhibition,” he said, adding however: “The David Bowie Archive gave unprecedented access to the V&A and museum’s curators have made all curatorial and design choices.
A close friend of mine tells me that I am neither ‘devastated’, ‘heartbroken’ nor ‘uncontrollably furious’ by this news item.
➢ Listen online to World At One discussing
next year’s Bowie exhibition
Then came today’s official announcement. When the V&A confirmed that its show will “explore the creative processes of Bowie as a musical innovator and cultural icon”, the BBC’s lunchtime current affairs bulletin, World at One, interviewed a key curator without a single mention that this show doesn’t open until next spring.
Ziggy stage costume by the Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto who described Bowie in 1972 as “neither man nor woman”. This outfit goes on show next year. (Photograph by Polkadot.tv)
After three years of negotiation, Geoffrey Marsh, the curator of performance, and Victoria Broackes, curator of theatre, were rightly exultant to have pulled out the Bowie plum. “He has had so much influence in other areas — film, theatre, fashion, design. In fact, he impacts on all departments of the V&A,” Marsh said, heading off recent criticism that pop-star memorabilia was rather a lightweight subject to justify its own claim to be “the world’s greatest museum of art and design”.
Most of the 300 objects going on show were collected by Bowie over his lifetime: handwritten lyrics, costumes, posters, instruments, stuff he regarded as important records of his career. Marsh says: “It is an extraordinary collection and there are very few performers who have hung on to their collections. In all areas of Bowie’s creativity, he is still having an impact today.”
Potential exhibits shown off at today’s press launch included a model of the set for the Diamond Dogs tour, the spangly catsuit designed by Freddi Burretti for Bowie’s 1972 performance of Starman on Top Of The Pops, Natasha Korniloff’s Pierrot costume from the 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes, and Alexander McQueen’s Union Jack coat created for the cover of Earthling in 1997.
➢ Showtime at the V&A — from The Guardian’s coverage, Sep 5:
“ No one from the V&A has sat down face to face with Bowie and, given he does not fly, it would be a surprise to everyone if he even made it along.
Self portrait in pose also adopted for the album cover of “Heroes” 1978. © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images
“I’m sorry to say I’ve never met him,” said co-curator Victoria Broackes. “Of course I’d love to and I really hope he likes it but in a way, because the V&A always takes editorial control of what it produces, it is better that we haven’t met him.”
Geoffrey Marsh said there were piles of books on Bowie – “I’m sure there will be many more university doctorates” – but this is the first significant exhibition and he promised it would be “groundbreaking” and hopefully achieve the almost impossible task of appealing to both diehard fans and an audience too young to really know how much of an influence Bowie was and still is.
That present tense is important and the V&A has called its show David Bowie is. “It underpins a key tenet of the exhibition,” said Broackes. “David Bowie’s impact today.”
It will examine what has influenced him – German expressionism, music hall, Theatre of Cruelty, French chanson, surrealism, Brechtian theatre, avant-garde mime, musicals and Japanese kabuki to name a few – and the countless artists he in turn has influenced… ” / Continued at Guardian Online
RAPACIOUS V&A PRICING EXPLOITS AN EAGER PUBLIC
➢ Enigmatically titled David Bowie is, the exhibition runs March 23–July 28, 2013, at the V&A, London SW7 2RL. Book online, in person at the museum, or by phone +44 (0)20 7907 7073 where you will spend a lifetime on hold. Top ticket price is an outrageous £15. By booking online you avoid being blackmailed into making an additional donation to the museum, though the V&A has the cheek to add a “handling charge” to all purchases! (Update: Ticketing has subsequently been farmed out to a theatre agency which has upped the price to £15.80 to include its own “booking fee”!)
How dare they, with Gucci sponsoring the exhibition? Gucci could readily pick up the whole bill for the show, and the V&A’s exploitative tactics let the institution down badly. Brace yourselves for a catalogue priced in similar “We saw you coming” mode (a catalogue for the last major show, British Design, cost £40). This is an ugly and accelerating trend among the capital’s cultural institutions.
Is Bowie alive or dead?
➢ Definitely alive — but busy on the school run, says The Times’s chief rock critic, Sep 5:
“ Ever since 2006, when he last performed live, rumours have circulated that David Bowie is at death’s door. What has he been doing? Taking his 12-year-old daughter to and from school in New York, according to his publicist. Having been too busy as an epoch-defining rock star to be a hands-on father to his son Zowie (now the film-maker Duncan Jones), Bowie is now helping out with his daughter’s homework. He is living through a period of normalcy that his early fame denied him. The state of his heath is unknown… ” / Continued at Times Online
The moment the earth tilted July 6, 1972: During Starman on Top of the Pops, David Bowie drapes his arm around the shoulder of Mick Ronson and a new generation of pop is triggered. The spangly 26-inch waist catsuit by Freddi Burretti will be on show at the V&A retrospective in 2013. Videograb © BBC
1970 ➤ Where to draw a line between glitter and glam:
naff blokes in Bacofoil versus starmen with pretensions
— analysis by Shapersofthe80s