Numerous Items From David Bowie Will Be Displayed in the V&A Museum

More than 80,000 belongings from the late music icon’s estate will be donated to the museum’s new David Bowie Center for the Study of Performing Arts.

London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum recently announced that David Bowie’s estate had gifted them the musician’s vast archive. The collection consists of more than 80,000 items, and will be displayed in The David Bowie Center for the Study of Performing Arts, which is set to open in 2025. 

The center will be located in the museum’s East Storehouse—their latest outpost located at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London’s Stratford section. It was funded by a combined donation of 10 million pounds (roughly 12 million U.S. dollars) from the Warner Music Group and Blavatnik Family Foundation. 

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The jaw-dropping amount of belongings can be attributed to the late musician’s fondness for preserving parts of his prolific career. In an article from the Financial Times, Kate Bailey—V&A’s senior curator for theaters and performances—states that the size of the archive was “unprecedented” for a global artist. 

“He was keeping and documenting his creative process, whether that was an album cover, a song lyric, a stage set or a look […] The fact that he had the vision to document and archive it is unbelievable,” explained Bailey. 

Rebel Rebel

David Bowie was born David Jones in 1947’s London suburbs. Throughout his career, he was known to constantly reinvent himself, creating multiple personas that were individual stars in their own right. 

David Bowie Aladdin Sane Album Record Sleeve
Record sleeve of Bowie’s album, Aladdin Sane, designed by Duffy and Philo/Photo via V&A’s official website.

There was Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke, and the Blind Prophet—each one a representation of a certain phase in his creative journey as he experimented with a variety of musical genres. The alter-egos even had their own unique costumes, created by notable fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Kansai Yamomoto. 

photograph of David Bowie
A photograph of Bowie by Terry O’Neill (1974)/Photo via V&A’s official website.

By the time Bowie passed away from cancer at the age of 69 in 2016, he had left a permanent mark on not only the music industry, but also fashion, art, and film. Among his impressive list of accomplishments was his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and receipt of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

His long-time collaborator, Nile Rogers, shared to the New York Times: “He didn’t just make art. He was art!”

The Legend Lives On

The vast archive being donated to the V&A Museum consists of an array of memorabilia from Bowie’s career. These include photos, costumes, set designs, musical instruments, letters, and handwritten lyrics. Many of these intimate pieces have never been seen by the public.

“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,” Bowie’s estate said in a statement. 

one of set models of David Bowie
One of Bowie’s set models by Derek Boshier (1982-1983)/Photo via V&A’s official website.

Besides exhibiting the pieces, the museum’s staff will also be digitally preserving them. Some notable pieces in the collection include Bowie’s many notebooks (filled with his ideas and musings) and “cut-up” lyrics from his creative process. The technique—which Bowie learned from postmodern author William Burroughs—involved cutting up existing written text and arranging them into cohesive lyrics. 

That said, this isn’t the first time the V&A Museum hosted a tribute to the English music icon. Bowie had a longstanding relationship with the institution, having granted them access to his items in 2013 for their exhibition David Bowie Is, which traced the musician’s career and made its final stop at New York in 2018.

As a testament to Bowie’s influence, the exhibition drew in an estimated two million visitors across 12 international venues. So Bowie’s many fans—both old and new—will certainly be pleased to know that the late artist’s legacy will soon be finding a permanent home in the museum for all to enjoy.

Banner Photo by Kevin Cummins via V&A’s official website.

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