Tag Archives: Victoria & Albert Museum

2013 ➤ Bowie is Go! Tasters for this week’s record-breaking V&A exhibition

+++V&A video trailer for the new exhibition, David Bowie is

➢ David Bowie is the enigmatic title of a retrospective exhibition of 300 possessions drawn from Bowie’s personal archive displayed at London’s Victoria & Albert museum, March 23–Aug 11. Appropriately, this week his first album in ten years, The Next Day, sits at No 1 in the Official UK Album Chart. It’s his ninth UK No 1 album (though spookily neither of his recent singles releases is anywhere near the singles chart). Before the V&A show launches, ticket sales exceed 42,000, more than double the advance sales of previous exhibitions at the museum. A few tickets are still available by booking online, in person in Kensington, or by phone +44 (0)20 7907 7073.


➢ David Bowie, the Return – Tony Parsons, Miranda Sawyer and La Roux’s Elly Jackson discuss Bowie’s music and influence for Radio 4’s Front Row (broadcast March 7, available on iPlayer for a year). Presenter John Wilson is guided through the V&A exhibits by the show’s curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh.

David Bowie, V&A exhibition, White Cloth Gallery, Leeds

Brian Duffy’s photography for the Lodger album sleeve 1979. © The Duffy Archive Limited

➢ The Duffy Collection of iconic Bowie images – which include three of his most famous album covers – goes on display May 2–June 4 at the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds LS1 4HT. The show documents Duffy’s special relationship with Bowie over ten years.

➢ A cryptic guide to the typography of Bowie – The V&A exhibition catalogue dissected by Gavin Lucas at Creative Review, 4 March 2013:

Jon Abbott at graphic design studio Barnbrook said of the book David Bowie Is: “We wanted to create an engaging pop-object for an audience who have come to expect the unconventional” … The book’s body typeface, Priori Serif, is one from Jonathan Barnbrook’s own foundry, Virus Fonts. Drawn by Jonathan Barnbrook and Marcus Leis Allion, the typeface was influenced by British typographers Gill and Johnston, and fittingly it found one of its first outings on the cover of Bowie’s 2002 album, Heathen … / Continued at Creative Review

Celia Philo,Brian Duffy,David Bowie, V&A exhibition,

One of the rejected cover shots for the Aladdin Sane album taken by photographer Brian Duffy in 1973. © The Duffy Archive Limited

➢ The day that lightning struck Aladdin – In 1973, Celia Philo directed the photo shoot for David Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane. The result was one of the most iconic images ever created. She talks to Stylist magazine, 2013:

Sometimes, when you’re doing something that you know is going to be good, it’s because it’s come from an extreme end of the spectrum of experience: either it’s incredibly hard work, or it comes together almost effortlessly. The photographic shoot for the cover of Aladdin Sane happened like magic. Its success was the result of a lucky collaboration of people … / Celia Philo, continued at Stylist

David Bowie, V&A exhibition,Lower Third,Swinging 60s,

Setting out as Swinging 60s Mod: Bowie promo shot in 1966 for his first single on Pye, Can’t Help Thinking About Me, with his band The Lower Third which included producer Tony Hatch on piano. The NME decided: “Absorbing melody, weakish tune”

➢ Iain R Webb: How David Bowie liberated my wardrobe – As a 14-year-old boy living in a West Country village, Webb, the former Blitz Kid and fashion editor and now RCA professor, thought David Bowie’s style statements were a gift. And so have generations of fashion designers. Read feature in The Independent, March 16, 2013:

Bowie’s influence on my life has been major, from the fundamental desire to never be labelled or pigeonholed to my profound love of glitter and penchant for a spikey haircut. And I am not alone … / Iain R Webb, continued at The Independent

➢ Glam! The Performance of Style (Feb 8–May 12) is a seriously well-curated multi-media show at Tate Liverpool surveying the 1971–75 phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic, across the whole spectrum of painting, sculpture, installation art, film, photography and performance. The in-depth survey comes in two halves, drawing a clear distinction between the playful subversion of pop music and fashion that characterised the British glam wave, and the American, which was driven much more profoundly by gender politics. Well worth a daytrip to Liverpool.

➢ 1970, Where to draw a line between glitter and glam: naff blokes in Bacofoil versus starmen with pretensions — analysis by Shapersofthe80s.

➢ How Glam Changed Britain, by Gary Kemp – feature written by the Spandau Ballet songwriter for The Times, Jan 28, 2013.


David Bowie, V&A exhibition, ,Berlin,Tony Visconti, Hansa Studios

Berlin 1976: Bowie with moustache, Tony Visconti and assistant engineer, Edu Meyer, taken in the control room of Hansa Studios by Meyer’s wife, Barbara

♫ BBC Radio 6Music celebrates the life and work of David Bowie throughout Easter week, March 25–31. Gems from the archive feature concerts and interviews which have not been heard in 30 years.

♫ 2013, Shock and awe verdicts – Shapersofthe80s rounds up critical opinion on Bowie’s born-again single Where Are We Now? and the masterful new album The Next Day – “beautiful, obsessive and deliciously cruel”.

♫ News of special vinyl release at Bowie’s website – His second 2013 single, The Stars, is scheduled for a limited edition vinyl 7inch 45 Record Store Day release on April 20. Backed with Where Are We Now?

❏ Music video for the 1979 song DJ (above) sees Bowie sporting a pink onesie dungaree outfit designed by Willy Brown and walking through London streets being snogged by fans, both boys and girls.


2013 ➤ Bowie officially not “devastated” as fab retrospective show goes ahead at the V&A

David Bowie, lyrics, pop music, retrospective, memorabilia, exhibition, William Burroughs,Victoria & Albert Museum

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 Stardust, David Bowie,stage costume, Kansai Yamamoto

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.

David Bowie, portrait, retrospective,  exhibition, Victoria & Albert Museum

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


➢ 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

David Bowie, Starman, 1972, Top of the Pops,V&A , exhbition, tipping point, BBC

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


➤ Trimphone aside, can you spot the designs that changed the look of Britain over 60 years?

British Design,exhibition ,Innovation, Modern Age, Victoria & Albert Museum,

British Design catalogue collage: road signs, high-rises, Kodak cameras, postage stamps, computers and Henry Moore — all are exhibited here

“Britain has since 1948 sustained an extraordinarily vigorous creative culture, even against a background of manufacturers leaving the stage like the instrumentalists in Haydn’s Farewell Symphony. It’s an inclusive culture, hence tapestries and Jaguars. It’s a culture that swoops artfully between high and low. It’s a culture that could import, with characteristic fairhandedness, both John Betjeman and Nikolaus Pevsner. The one in thrall to the village, the other in thrall to steel and glass. Wonderfully, each was a founder of The Victorian Society. Their contrasting spirits dominate British design in the years before The Beatles’ first LP. Thereafter, the Britain of crumpets-with-vicar became the undisputed global capital of youth culture whose furious organic vitality still invigorates business life.”

➢ Stephen Bayley, former chief executive of the Design Museum, writing in The Independent

Denys Lasdun, University of East Anglia,architecture

Architect Denys Lasdun’s University of East Anglia, 1962-68: raised walkways, striking ‘ziggurats’ and no building on campus more than five minutes’ walk away

❚ AN EXHIBITION TITLED British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, is bound to infuriate as much as it excites. The grimly claustrophobic galleries that host temporary shows at the Victoria & Albert Museum abound with iconic and nostalgic everyday objects, rather as a good car-boot sale does. Yet the omission of much imaginative British media is unforgivable — the template for newspaper colour supplements laid out by The Sunday Times plus a serious investment in photo-reportage, for example… the more-British-than-British essence with which the American Joseph Losey propelled a whole chapter of stylish cinema… the sci-fi television fantasies of The Prisoner or Doctor Who…

Twiggy , Mary Quant ,miniskirt,Swinging London, youth culture

Twiggy models the Mary Quant miniskirt, 1965: named after the designer’s favourite car, the mini encapsulated the youth culture of Swinging London — energetic and unconventional

What the V&A show’s three themes propose — under the headings Tradition & Modernity, through the Subversion of pop, to Innovation & Creativity — amounts to a vital module for every art or design student in the education system, whose forebears, thank goodness, benefited from the shake-up imposed in 1960 by the Coldstream Report.

Ignore most dithering reviews of this hot-and-cold exhibition. Instead, do savour the argumentative Stephen Bayley, writing in that onetime model of new newspaper design, The Independent. He nails the paradox of this show in a daydream: “I became drunk on memories of whimsy, charm, gentility, wit and Macmillan-era futurism. My imagination never turned to the ruins of industry, the loss of technological competence, the barrenness of every British city except London and the fact that the economy of our once-busy island workshop is now based on the theory and practice of a dodgy casino.”

Bayley then comes to the nub of the matter: “The tricky thing is ‘design’ itself. It’s often muddled not only with ‘innovation’, but with invention, fashion and taste-making, sometimes even with art. After more than 150 years of promoting design at the V&A, no one seems to have any very clear idea of what it is. If it is a real subject, it must have a discipline. But what discipline connects Spence’s Coventry Cathedral with Damien Hirst’s 1997 Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill, west London, each of which features here?

“If, as the design lobby often insists, ‘everything has been designed’, then everyone is a designer. So what special qualities do professional designers bring to any task?”

British Design,exhibition ,Innovation, Modern Age, Festival of Britain, Skylon, Concorde

Notions of modernity: at the Festival of Britain, 1951, the Skylon designed by Powell & Moya was rendered by the practice’s junior architect James Gowan as a monumentalised missile, and symbolised the dawning age of science. In 1979, BA’s sixth Concorde took off on its maiden flight

Aim Bayley’s question at three triumphs of design in the V&A show: the kinetic balancing act of the Festival of Britain’s Skylon structure; the bird-wing aerodynamics of Concorde miniaturised at the V&A in a 20-ft model; and the most thrilling artefact in the entire show: the skilfully lit Jaguar E-Type from 1961 which rival manufacturer Enzo Ferrari declared “the most beautiful car ever made”. Drop down to one knee and view the Jag diagonally from any corner and wonder at its lack of straight lines. One curve after another creates changing perspectives that conspire to emulate speed even as it stands motionless before you. Seldom will you hear both men and women purring over such a seductive silhouette! Seldom will you ever see such a thrilling manmade object.

There are a good number of breathtaking moments in this show that beg you to ask why and how an exhibit stopped you in your tracks, though not as many as you would wish.

Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar E-Type,sports car ,

Relish the curves: designed by Malcolm Sayer, the Jaguar E-Type 3.8-litre sports car was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961 as a two-seat coupe or convertible, with a top speed of 150 mph. The car’s shape is the epitome of speed

➢ British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, runs at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Mar 31 until Aug 12


➤ Aaaah, bricolage, stealing and pasting — all the fun of postmodernism on show at the V&A

Grace Jones, maternity dress,Jean-Paul Goude , Antonio Lopez, V&A, blockbuster, exhibition, Postmodernism,bricolage,

Branding the V&A exhibition: Grace Jones in a maternity dress, 1979, designed by Jean-Paul Goude and Antonio Lopez © Jean-Paul Goude

➢ View Sarfraz Manzoor’s Guardian video in which he meets co-curator Jane Pavitt and others at the V&A’s new show in London, poses such questions as “What does Grace Jones’ maternity dress have in common with a Day-Glo toaster and a chair made from a gas pipe?” and elicits these insights…

❏ The godfather of postmodernism, architect Charles Jencks, dates the end of modernism and hence birth of postmodernism to the blowing up of Pruitt-Igoe, a housing estate in Missouri from the 1950s, based on Le Corbusier’s work. It was demolished on March 16, 1972 — “at 3.32pm, a fact repeated so often it became a social truth”.

❏ The ceramicist Carol McNicoll admits she realised as a student in 1985 that suddenly “decoration was fine and people liked it — no more bentwood — lots of silly plastic”.

❏ Co-curator Glenn Adamson says: “Postmodernism culminates in the act of performance. It’s is all about adopting a pose: you wouldn’t have Lady Gaga without Grace Jones.”

➢ Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990 runs at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Sep 24–Jan 15, 2012

➢ Discover the many forces that shaped deconstruction, structuralism and postmodernism, from Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Rorty, Baudrillard, Jameson

➢ Patrick Hannay reflects on the waste and diversion of energy by a movement that purported to cure a cultural malaise — at the Times Higher Education supp

➢ The Victoria & Albert Museum’s latest blockbuster-style exhibition is … “both a horrible mess and a hypnotic snapshot embracing some unspeakably hideous pieces of furniture alongside some sublime drawings and film clips” — Edwin Heathcote at The Financial Times

“It’s Po-Mo … postmodern … all right, weird for the sake of weird” — The Simpsons

➢ “The Consensus of Stasis: Rationalism and Sontagist camp”
— one of five million meaningless essays randomly generated since 2000 by the Postmodernism Generator