When Helen and I got tickets to go to the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition at South Kensington’s V&A museum we leapt at the chance (did we mention it was in partnership with Gucci?!) Bowie is the perfect fusion of pop, surrealism, fashion and creativity. With over 300 objects carefully selected and brought together for the first time by co-curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, we weren’t disappointed. Exhibits included everything from hand written lyrics, fashion, original costumes, photography and album artwork.
On arrival we excitedly collected our ‘Sennheiser’ audio guides which enhanced the experience to another dimension. They had been carefully developed to integrate all sound material into the tour so each exhibit and screen that was approached, would give you an experience that worked all your senses. Technical stuff ya!
So the fashion, WELL, here’s a small selection of our fav’s. The first iconic piece we were greeted with was the incredible Kansai Yamamoto striped bodysuit that was used for the Aladden Sane tour. Not able to initially afford original designs by Yamamoto, Bowie enlisted the help of friends Natasha Korniloff and Freddie Burretti, to create cheaper versions of Yamamoto’s signature body suits and platforms. Of course, after the success of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie approached Yamamoto and commissioned a set of even more flamboyant stage costumes for the Aladden Sane tour. These outfits, inspired by the style of Japanese samurai and kabuki actors are sculptural, eye-catching and quite simply outrageous!
Kansai Yamamoto striped bodysuit for the Aladden Sane tour with photograph by Masayoshi Sukita (1973)
Another incredibly eye catching piece was the Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Freddie Burretti. Worn when he performed, for the first time, the single ‘Starman’ from his album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’. This was a moment that changed rock music and youth culture forever. Appearing on national TV with bright orange hair and wearing a large quantity of make up, Bowie had taken inspiration from the ‘droogs’ street gang in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Ziggy’s out of this world look and sexual ambiguity, created a shift in pop culture.
One of the most iconic pieces for me was the Natasha Korniloff, ‘Pierrot’ costume, designed for the Scary Monsters…(and Super Creeps) album cover shoot, and of course, the Ashes to Ashes music video. It was there, right in front of me, shining with all its silvery glory.
Pierrot costume by Natasha Korniloff with photograph by Brian Duffy (1980)
When you’re David Bowie you can collaborate with any fashion designer and that’s pretty much what he does. Having his pick of the fashion bunch he’s collaborated with everyone from Thierry Mugler, Issy Miyake, Hedi Slimane and Giorgio Armani but his partnership with Alexander McQueen when making the Union Jack coat is nothing short of iconic. It’s a fusion of punk aesthetic and expert tailoring learnt by McQueen in his Saville Row day’s. The coat was used for the ‘Earthling’ album cover in 1997 – the same year Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell, wore her iconic union jack dress to the Brit Awards, which begs the question, who copied who??
As well as seeing all of this iconic fashion treasure we were treated (via our audio guides) to narrative by Bowie himself and old performance footage of the main man on Top of the Pops. It felt somewhat voyeuristic, almost like you were listening in on someone else’s conversation which is great as those who know me will be aware of the fact I’m super nosey!
The final section celebrates Bowie as a pioneering performer both on stage and in film. An immersive audio-visual space projects some of Bowie’s most ambitious videos including DJ and The Hearts Filthy Lesson. David Bowie is, concludes with a display of striking performance and fashion photography, taken by photographers Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands, all nicely juxtaposed with a collage of visual projections showing Bowie’s immense creative influence and presence in music, fashion and contemporary and visual culture.
Perhaps one of the most recognisable images of Bowie is the photograph from the Aladden sane cover. This was Ziggy Stardust in all his glory, complete with ‘lighting flash’ design on the face, a look that has been copied by celebrities all over the world including Lady GAGA and Kate Moss on the cover of Vogue in May 2003.
Kate Moss Vogue cover 2003, Lady GAGA and David Bowie on the Aladden Sane cover.
In a nutshell this exhibition is well worth a visit but you’ll have to get your skates on as it finishes on August 11th. Opening times are every day from 10am-17.45. If you don’t have a chance to make it down then make sure you do catch a specially made film for the David Bowie is exhibition, which can be viewed on the V&A Channel www.vam.ac.uk/channel featuring exclusive interviews with Daphne Guinness, Jeremy Deller and Thurston Moore.
If you’re reading this from Canada you’ll be happy to know David Bowie is, will tour to Art Gallery of Ontario from 25th September to 27th November 2013 followed by the Museum of Image and Sound, Sao Paulo from January 28th to 21st April 2014.
And finally…A live Nationwide Cinema Event: David Bowie is Happening Now, is actually happening on Tuesday 13th August nationwide across cinemas to celebrate the huge success of the exhibition. Click here for more info http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/d/david-bowie-is-happening-now-a-live-nationwide-cinema-event/
Lots to sing and dance about so on that note ‘Lets Dance’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4d7Wp9kKjA