The V&A’s David Bowie Is…exhibition is set to become a permanent fixture in London, with over 80,000 items on display.
The collection will be showcased in the new David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at the V&A’s East Storehouse, located in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Its doors will officially open from 2025 thanks to a £10million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.
The David Bowie Is…collection first opened as a touring museum in March 2013 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2016, a documentary exploring the collection was released, which captured the exhibit’s closing night when housed at the V&A. In July 2018, David Bowie Is…came to an end at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. That same year, it became available to view via augmented reality with a voiceover by actor Gary Oldman, a long-time friend of the singer.
Each archive stored over 500 items of memorabilia from numerous moments in David Bowie’s extensive career, including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments and album artwork.
V&A Director Dr Tristram Hunt says of the new opening: “David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time. The V&A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive, and to be able to open it up for the public. Bowie’s radical innovations across music, theatre, film, fashion, and style – from Berlin to Tokyo to London – continue to influence design and visual culture and inspire creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons.
“Our new collections centre, V&A East Storehouse, is the ideal place to put Bowie’s work in dialogue with the V&A’s collection spanning 5,000 years of art, design, and performance. My deepest thanks go to the David Bowie Estate, Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group for helping make this a reality and for providing a new sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow.”
While a spokesperson from David Bowie’s estate adds: “With David’s life’s work becoming part of the UK’s national collections, he takes his rightful place amongst many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses. The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performance- and the behind the scenes access that V&A East Storehouse offers– will mean David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that haven’t been possible before, and we’re so pleased to be working closely with the V&A to continue to commemorate David’s enduring cultural influence.”
Actress Tilda Swinton, the star’s collaborator and friend offers: “In 2013, the V&A’s David Bowie Is… exhibition gave us unquestionable evidence that Bowie is a spectacular example of an artist, who not only made unique and phenomenal work, but who has an influence and inspiration far beyond that work itself. Ten years later, the continuing regenerative nature of his spirit grows ever further in popular resonance and cultural reach down through younger generations.
“In acquiring his archive for posterity, the V&A will now be able to offer access to David Bowie’s history – and the portal it represents – not only to practicing artists from all fields, but to every last one of us, and for the foreseeable future. This is a truly great piece of news, which deserves the sincerest gratitude and congratulations to all those involved who have made it possible.”