Victoria & Albert Museum, London - 23rd March to 11th August 2013
I think I’ve been to the V&A about three times for dissertation purposes whilst this has been running, so I figured it was finally time to check it out, now that the work is done. I have to say that before entering the exhibition, I really had no idea what to expect. Though I’m a big fan of Bowie’s music (‘Rebel Rebel’ is my ringtone!), I’ve never really been able to appreciate his overall legacy in the fields of art, film and fashion (probably because my parents hadn’t even met when Bowie was in his heyday). This is a huge exhibition that covers every possible theme related to the musical icon and his work. Be warned, there is A LOT to see, and anyone who is easily overwhelmed or distracted may struggle! However, patience truly is a virtue here.
A unique aspect to the show are the audio sets given to every visitor. These are automatically activated throughout the exhibition space with corresponding clips of music and interviews. Though this seems like an excellent idea, I did find that the amount of people present meant that you would often find yourself on the edge of a sound activation space, causing the audio to suddenly stop with the slightest of sways. However, when it worked, it worked really well.
A highlight for me came near the end of the show, with the large open space surrounded by wall projections of various Bowie concerts staged between 1972 and 2004. I wasn’t the only one to enjoy this part, as it was clearly an audience favourite: a huge crowd gathered in the space during a performance of ‘Heroes’ from the Concert of New York City, which was held on October 20th 2001 to honour the police and fire departments involved in the 9/11 attacks. This was beautiful, humbling and musically epic.
But what I loved most about ‘David Bowie Is’ was the sheer range of people visiting: there were young fans wanting to find out more, like me; middle-aged friends reminiscing together; hardcore music fans, flicking through the vinyls on display and lounging around by the ‘concert’ space; and what I’m sure were several fashion students, who must have been impressed with the amount of costumes on display.
During my first five minutes in the exhibition, I worried that this would only be enjoyable for those who actually remember the arrival of Bowie on the music scene. But there really was something for everyone to enjoy. I’ve always thought Bowie was a pretty cool bloke who has managed to avoid slipping into that dangerous ‘ageing rocker’ territory. I now see why … he’s an absolute incomparable legend. Fans of art, music or fashion need to see this show! I think it has sold out online, but limited tickets are being sold on the day. Or be super cool like me and go get some membership, then you can waltz in past all the losers queuing. I think that’s what Bowie would do.