David Bowie’s ‘rich and powerful’ archive to be made public in new location

  • By Mark Savage
  • BBC Music Correspondent

source of images, Getty Images


David Bowie is one of the best-selling musicians of all time

David Bowie fans will get unprecedented insight into his life, work and legacy after the V&A Museum acquires the rock star’s archive.

The collection includes more than 80,000 letters, lyrics, photos, set designs, musical awards and costumes.

It also includes several instruments belonging to the musician, including the Stylophone which he played on his 1969 single Space Oddity.

The archive will be on display in 2025 at a newly created location in east London.

The David Bowie Center for the Study of Performing Arts in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will provide a “guide for the Bowies of tomorrow”, said Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A.

source of images, The David Bowie Archive/PA


Sketches of the singer will appear in the public archives

“It’s an incredible gift,” added Kate Bailey, senior curator, who previously worked on the museum’s groundbreaking David Bowie Is… exhibition in 2013.

“It traces Bowie’s entire career. There are priceless elements from his very beginnings in the 60s, through to (the 2013 album) The Next Day and beyond.

“I found it fascinating – the personal insights, the handwritten lyrics, the dialogue with other creative practitioners about how a song is written or how a song is recorded or how a video is processed.

“All of these things are incredibly rich and powerful.”

source of images, The David Bowie Archive/PA


The star wearing a memorable Kansai Yamamoto costume

Other highlights include Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust suits, designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972, and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the cover of 1997’s Earthling album.

The collection also includes Brian Eno’s EMS synthesizer, used on Bowie’s 1977 albums Low and Heroes; and examples of his “cutting up” technique for lyric writing, which literally involved cutting up existing texts to generate new meanings from the rearranged pieces.

source of images, The David Bowie Archive/PA


He used a cut-up technique, popularized by American author William S Burroughs

Ms Bailey said the records had been kept with “fantastic care” and “meticulous” attention to detail.

“These items, these documents, were important to him and you get the sense that because he was always creatively moving forward, it was useful to park and collect and store (everything ) in order to move on to the next character or project.”

The acquisition by the V&A and the creation of the Bowie Center was made possible by the David Bowie Estate and a £10 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.

source of images, The David Bowie Archive/PA


A colorful quilted outfit worn by Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust era, early 1970s

In a press release, a spokesperson for Bowie’s estate said: “With David’s work forming part of the UK’s national collections, he takes his rightful place among many other cultural icons and geniuses. artistic.

“The David Bowie Center for the Study of Performance – and the behind-the-scenes access the V&A East Storehouse provides – will mean that David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that were not possible before.”

Producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers, who collaborated with Bowie on the 1983 Let’s Dance album, added: “I think everyone will agree with me when I say…if only one artist could be at the V&A, it should be David Bowie.

“He wasn’t just making art, he was art!”

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