The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has now acquired the exclusive rights to house the extensive archive of David Bowie and fans can now get an in-depth and visceral glance into his life.
What will the archive consist of?
The archive consists of about 80,000 letters, letters, lyrics, photos, stage designs, music awards and costumes. Along with all this, the archive will showcase a number of instruments owned by Bowie, which notably also includes the stylophone that he used in his breakout single Space Oddity, back in 1969. This archive will also house some of Bowie’s most poignant creations from his early days in the 1960’s to his 2013 album.
According to Kate Bailey, a senior curator at the V&A who had previously showed her love for Bowie through an exhibition back in 2013 titled ‘David Bowie is…’, the acquisition of such rights will come as a n amazing gift for Bowie’s fans and the music enthusiasts. She also commented that the preservation of these pieces were done with “fantastic care” and with attention to detail.
According to a close friend of Bowie’s, he has historically preserved everything and the exhibition will only scratch the surface of Bowie’s entire archive.
Some other notable pieces in the archive include handwritten lyrics to most of his songs, notably Heroes, hand drawn costume ideas for his Ziggy Stardust costumes which were designed by Freddie Buretti.
This was made possible by the David Bowie Estate and a £10m donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group, which certainly facilitated a smoother acquisition.
Who was David Bowie?
David Bowie was an English singer, songwriter and actor who had cemented his place among the world’s greatest musicians at quite an early stage in his career. Though he was mostly regarded as a ‘rock n roll’ singer, decades later, his music can still not be put in a rigid box. He put out a lot of innovative and inventive work, especially in the 1970s, for which he was lauded by critics and the public alike.
He was also considered to be a fashion icon, inspiring many designers like that of Dries Van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier, among others, to think out of the box and to also express a story through the outfits one wears. He also constantly changed his personality, which allowed him to take and embrace many forms of himself.
Bowie passed away on 10th January, 2016 in his New York City apartment, after an 18 month struggle with liver cancer. But he had not made his condition public and instead, kept working on his off-Broadway musical ‘Lazarus’. But in the end, it was no longer possible for him to attend because of the progression of his cancer.
He also played a huge role in the way society, at that time, perceived and talked about the concept of gender. He was a gender bender at the time when homosexuality in America was illegal. His fluid sexuality and openly bisexual behaviour made many criticise the singer, but simultaneously he became an icon for those who were struggling to find their identity at this turbulent time. Thousands looked at Bowie as an icon for change and hopefully, a brighter future and also played a significant role in the culture for people to be accepting of ‘non-traditional sex roles’.
We can safely say that today’s art and culture still feels the impact of David Bowie’s work. The complexity found in his work still puzzles fans and critics as a whole, making them think more and more about the character and the person that Bowie was.
This archive will go on display and be open to the public in 2025, in a newly created east London venue.