David Bowie isActually, the fact that we had to join the longest of queues which stretched the length of the V&A Sculpture Court afforded the opportunity to take time to enjoy the statues, not least the stunning deco piece entitled Scandal, but, despite these welcome distractions, we were merely en route to what is already a monsters-of-rock scale hit. The electrifying “David Bowie is endeavours to weave together the story of Bowie’s life, to demonstrate his place at the heart of contemporary culture and, of course, celebrate his music and perpetually shifting image. We are equipped with headphones on arrival, as the exhibition rightly recognises that the music and the visuals are inseparable. The ‘David Bowie is’ tag is used extensively to remind us that he ‘is’ always something new. We start with some of the influences that shaped his early years (Carl Andre, Look Back in Anger, Kubrick’s 2001) and before we know it we’re headed towards the original handwritten lyrics to Space Oddity and his first appearance on Top of the Pops singing Starman. We are reminded just how radical this was… it’s 1972 and he’s unlike anything that has gone before: the androgyny, the vibrant costume, the makeup, the flirtatiousness, the confidence. And there before us is the actual outfit he wore. It’s thrilling. You realise what a pioneer he was and, as the decades pass, each new direction is always unpredictable. Where, say, Freddy Mercury or Madonna take and reinvent and, often brilliantly, subvert different looks, Bowie is always an original. He leads and others follow: other performers, other musicians, his devoted public, me. His choice of designers is broad, he plunders fashion, theatre, art, film and music and we are fully aware of the debt Bowie owes to many other visionary designers. The exhibition technology is impressive, the music or commentary changing in our ears effortlessly as we move around – even if I seemed to be one of the few to need a bit of a dance. We get to watch Bowie’s acting, see him singing on video or playing live. Packed together like this, his achievements seem limitless and overwhelming. At the ‘finale’ more and more amazing outfits are literally piled high in front of us in the atmosphere of a massive Bowie concert, but it’s quite fun to take off the headset, and suddenly the packed room is as silent as a church… we are united in unholy holy worship of a true modern idol. Time may change him, but we can’t change time.

David Bowie is

One thought on “David Bowie is: Victoria & Albert Museum

  1. How good to read this blog as we didn’t have the chance afterwards that night and it was all so extraordinary and compelling. What an artist and what imagination, and seeming confidence. So pleased we went and waited. I shall see it again too.

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