Why Mr David Bowie Is… Still A Cultural Icon
Mr David Bowie at the Cannes Film Festival, 1983. Photograph by Mr Richard Young/REX Shutterstock
The documentary of the V&A’s David Bowie Is exhibition, re-released this week, explores the lasting impact of the musician and artist.
A demigod? The most influential musician of the 20th century? A spaced-out oddity? Whatever words you would choose to complete the sentence “David Bowie Is…”, no one can deny what an impact he had on the world during his 50-year career – and continues to have after his death in January.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, AKA the V&A, in London had the foresight to pay tribute to him while he was still alive, having been given full access to his extensive archive. Their extraordinarily successful exhibition _David Bowie Is _proved hugely popular when it opened in 2013 and has since been on a non-stop world tour. (It’s currently showing at Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna in Italy.)
A documentary about the exhibition is showing at Vue cinemas and selected venues across the UK today. Here the exhibition’s co-curator, Mr Geoffrey Marsh, explains why you should see it.
Part of the installation from the V&A exhibition David Bowie Is. Photograph courtesy of David Bowie Archive and Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Why did the V&A choose to dedicate an exhibition to Mr David Bowie?
“At the V&A, we not only cover rock and pop as part of the Theatre & Performance strand, but our broader collections also reflect the breadth of David Bowie’s influences, his artistic output and his significance across visual and virtual culture, including music, fashion, photography, graphics, film, theatre and art. For the national museum of art, design and performance, it was a perfect fit.”
Why did you call the exhibition David Bowie Is?
“The title is both a statement and an unfinished sentence, and poses the question David Bowie is – what? Our approach was to leave that question open, and to highlight the fact that there is no single answer.”
Can you (try to) sum up Mr Bowie’s influence as a cultural icon?
“I think one reason that Bowie has such a continuing fascination with the public is in his radical individualism, which inspired others to challenge convention and pursue freedom of expression. Bowie’s success and enduring appeal is due to a number of reasons. He combined commercial success with critical acclaim; he was a pioneer not only of great music, but also of rock theatre, videos, internet and digital downloads. He always responded creatively to new technology and he was always personally in charge of what he created.”
What are some of the standout pieces in the exhibition?
“This exhibition is a unique opportunity to see together costumes, photography, designs and rare material spanning 50 years of Bowie’s career. The exhibition displays never-before-seen film, including footage from the Diamond Dogs tour at Tower Theatre in Philadelphia and other early film. It also includes many objects illustrating Bowie’s design process: storyboards drawn by Bowie for the “Ashes To Ashes” music video and sketches for a proposed Diamond Dogs film project, handwritten set lists and lyrics including “Heroes”, “Starman” and “Fashion” and paintings made during Bowie’s time in Berlin in the 1970s, as well as some of his own instruments, sketches and diary entries.”
Where is the exhibition going next?
“The exhibition travels to Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo), Bologna, Italy, from 14 July until 13 November.”
The documentary film of the V&A exhibition David Bowie Is is re-released in Vue cinemas and selected venues across the UK today