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David Bowie is

DATES March 2, 2018 through July 15, 2018
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT Special Exhibition
  • David Bowie is
    David Bowie showed us we could be who we wanted to be. In the 1970s he promoted individualism and freedom of sexuality, and over six decades he thrilled, surprised, and delighted audiences with incomparable sound and vision. His work continues to inspire artists, designers, musicians, and many followers with its distinctive persona and style.

    Bowie’s death in January 2016 shocked and saddened many millions of admirers. From the British prime minister and the president of the United States to the German government and the Vatican, the variety of tributes underlined Bowie’s influence and impact, and confirmed the extent to which he has permeated popular culture.

    This exhibition tells this story through costumes, ?lm, photography, and set designs, as well as more personal items such as musical scores, storyboards, lyrics, and even diary entries. The exhibition reveals the breadth of Bowie’s in?uences and explores his creative processes and, in turn, his in?uence on our world.

    This exhibition has been organized by the V & A with unprecedented access to The David Bowie Archive.

    All objects are lent by The David Bowie Archive except where otherwise indicated.
  • Your sound experience starts here.
    The David Bowie is exhibition constitutes a stunning technical and artistic success that charts the trajectory of an artist who defies all categorization.

    Working closely with the exhibition’s designers and curators, Sennheiser has been a key partner on the project. Through its extensive technical expertise and leading-edge audio solutions, Sennheiser has helped to make the exhibition a momentous cultural event. The guidePORT system provides each visitor with a seamless immersion in David Bowie’s music and world with exceptional audio quality synchronized to the exhibits, while 3D audio experiences allow visitors to be totally submerged in sound and vision, capturing the sensations and emotions of a live concert. Supporting David Bowie is goes to the very heart of Sennheiser’s identity: since 1945, the company has been a force for innovation and continuous improvement in audio, proudly serving creators and artists around the world.

    Sound experience by Sennheiser
  • David Bowie is a Face in the Crowd
    Growing Up

    David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in the south London neighborhood of Brixton on January 8, 1947. By 1953, he had moved with his family to the suburbs, near Bromley. There, his older half-brother awakened David’s interest in jazz and the new Beat poetry.

    By 1963, sixteen-year-old David was fascinated by pop music, American culture, and fashion, and he played in local bands. He left school to work in a Mayfair advertising agency, but within a year he had left that job and decided to pursue being a professional musician full-time.

    The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and a wave of other bands revolutionized the United Kingdom’s popular music industry. From 1963 to 1969, David played, wrote songs, recorded, learned to perform, and became “David Bowie.” A significant commercial breakthrough, however, eluded him.
  • David Bowie is Floating in a Most Peculiar Way
    Breakthrough

    January 1969: Newspapers printed the first color photographs of Earth from space. Bowie wrote, “Planet Earth is blue / And there’s nothing I can do,” in a new song about an astronaut—Major Tom—alone in space. He titled it “Space Oddity”—a pun on Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    The single was released in July, shortly before the launch of the Apollo 11 moon mission. On July 20, the BBC played it over footage of the moon landing. By October, “Space Oddity” was No. 5 on the UK record charts. David Bowie had achieved his dream of reaching a national audience.

    Major Tom, one of Bowie’s first song characters, is not only a heroic astronaut but a vulnerable, alienated everyman as well. Throughout his career, Bowie described characters in his songs and sometimes performed in their guise onstage. Major Tom returned in the songs “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), the single version of “Hallo Spaceboy” (1996), and “Blackstar” (2015).
  • David Bowie is Thinking About a World to Come
    Astronaut of Inner Space

    Beamed into homes through television sets across Britain, red-booted, red-haired Bowie sang “Starman” on the BBC’s Top of the Pops in July 1972. Television audiences had rarely seen anything like it. The next day at school and work, it was all anyone discussed.

    Alluding to the patterned textiles of the iconic London design house Liberty, Bowie called his look “ultra-violence in Liberty fabrics.” Admiring the visual style of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, he made it his own, remaking the silhouette in a bold, colorful pattern. He was constructing a new identity, plucking ideas from everywhere, because he thought that pop needed an overhaul. And through his experimentation, through his questioning of gender and social norms, Bowie became a glamorous pioneer of invented identities.
  • David Bowie is Using Machine Age Knife Magic
    Creative Influences

    All artists take ideas from the world around them, but few spread the net so wide or create something so new with what they find.

    Bowie’s work was influenced by art, architecture, books, costume design, film, avant-garde performance, conversation, and all kinds of music. The catalyst for his creativity might be a title or the cover of a book, or a pose of an actress in a film, or a philosophy, or the “oblique strategy” of chance.

    Bowie’s energy in seeking out new ideas, and his skill in filtering them to find exactly what he needed, was a hallmark of his success. His work never bowed to record company expectations or repeated a winning formula. Bowie was always moving on to something else.
  • David Bowie is Never at a Loss for Words or Poses
    Song Creation

    For Bowie, songwriting integrated words, music, production, and imagery. Just as he layered influences from music, theater, and art, his songs build up meaning, “so that you see something new each time.” In the 1970s, he was fascinated by chance as a catalyst for creativity. Alongside conventional songwriting methods, he used “cut-up” techniques and, in the 1990s, a random word generator. Seeing the visual as part of the process, he also used painting to test musical textures.

    Bowie’s songs rarely offer a straightforward or unified meaning. “I like the idea that they’re vehicles for other people to interpret or use as they will,” he said. Nonetheless, poetic phrases— “a gazely stare” or “hot tramp”—and anthems, such as “we can be heroes,” are unmistakable Bowie and help to make him one of the most influential songwriters.
  • David Bowie is Surprising Himself
    Recording Studio

    Between 1967 and 2016, Bowie released twenty-seven studio albums, in addition to more than 150 singles, live albums, and music videos. He recorded in studios around the world, including London, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Montreux, and though the locations and technologies changed, the recording studio was the scene of Bowie’s most intense work.

    During these fifty years, advances in sound recording transformed Bowie’s possibilities—from mono to surround sound, from four track to multitracking in the digital age. But recording still required total focus: silence, the mic, the musicians standing by, and the producer looking on from the control desk.

    Bowie revised his studios and techniques to meet his ambitions. Occasionally everything was planned in advance; usually he would get together with his musicians and work in the studio from ideas gathered in notebooks. Whatever the process or the external pressures, Bowie was renowned for his concentration, skill, and speed. He was ultimately always in control of his catalogue—conceiving, making, then filtering the final tracks for release.
  • David Bowie is Taking Advantage of what the Moment Offers
    Collaboration

    Bowie always personally controlled every aspect of his work, from the music and album covers to the costumes and stage sets to the merchandise on sale during his tours. His vision always derived from his collaborations, not only with musicians and producers but also with choreographers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, and the designers responsible for graphics, costumes, sets, and lighting. Over his career, he continually sought out collaborators, mainstream or avant-garde, famous or unknown, and always showed a particular talent for finding the right voice to express what he wanted to say. What didn’t work, he consistently left out.

    Bowie had a long-standing creative relationship with Tony Visconti, who produced thirteen albums, from Space Oddity in 1969 to Blackstar in 2016. Other significant but briefer collaborations included those with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, makeup artist Pierre La Roche, set and lighting designer Jules Fisher (all in the early 1970s); producer Nile Rodgers (Let’s Dance, 1983, and Black Tie White Noise, 1993); and fashion designer Alexander McQueen (in the 1990s).
  • David Bowie is Making Himself Up
    Characters

    In 1967, at age twenty, Bowie discovered the stage and the possibilities of delivering his ideas through the creation of extraordinary characters.

    In the 1960s, rock was about authenticity, but Bowie saw the future for the 1970s elsewhere—in acting, play, masks, makeup, costume, kabuki, mime, imagination.

    He was continually creating and borrowing—Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke, detective Nathan Adler, the Minotaur.

    But there was also “David Bowie” himself, a character-artist who, like the artist Marcel Duchamp in 1923, found that you can perform by not performing and that, in a celebrity-soaked world, a character offstage could remain onstage.
  • David Bowie is Moving like a Tiger on Vaseline
    Impact

    Bowie was adventurous both artistically and personally. Being in the public eye gave him a platform to surprise and shock with his often androgynous appearance, sparking open conversations about gender roles, the sexuality of clothing, and sexual preference.

    This bold and refreshing stance challenged the status quo. Bowie’s pioneering stage shows, costumes, album covers, and music videos were censored at times. But knowing the press value, he enjoyed a playfully subversive relationship with both the truth and the media. In 1972, he told the British music weekly Melody Maker that he was gay and always had been. At a time when few public figures openly discussed being gay, Bowie offered an unfettered perspective that prompted discussions and changed mind-sets.

    David Bowie inspired his audiences to dress up for his concerts, and his fans all over the world to express their sexuality—though still a challenging endeavor in many communities and societies. The BBC documentary shown here reveals Britain in 1973: the skepticism of the establishment, but also the adulation of the fans.
  • David Bowie is in the Best-Selling Show
    “Life on Mars?”

    “Life on Mars?,” one of Bowie’s best-loved, most influential, and most frequently reinterpreted singles, first appeared as a track on the album Hunky Dory in 1971. BBC session musicians provided the orchestral strings for an arrangement written by Mick Ronson, and Rick Wakeman embellished Bowie’s original piano part to great effect. In 1973, the album cut was released as a single on the back of Ziggy-mania, alongside a stunning promotional film created by Mick Rock. The song spent thirteen weeks on the British singles chart in 1973, reaching No. 3, and again in 2007 during screenings of the BBC series Life on Mars.  It has been covered by numerous artists, including Barbra Streisand, Phish, Seu Jorge, and Lorde.
  • David Bowie is a Picture of the Future
    Music Videos

    “It has to be three-dimensional,” Bowie said in 1974. “I’m not content just writing songs.” His pioneering music videos, created in collaboration with talented directors and artists, set benchmarks for creativity and innovation.

    Musicians made promotional music films decades before MTV. In the 1940s, short music films preceded features, and in the early 1960s, film jukeboxes (the Scopitone) offered “live” performances by Neil Sedaka, Johnny Hallyday, and Brigitte Bardot, among others. The 1960s saw The Beatles and The Rolling Stones embrace both long and short forms—not just as a marketing device but as an extension of their overall art.

    The iconic “Ashes to Ashes” video of 1980 was storyboarded by Bowie and then filmed in part on Hastings beach, on the south coast of England, with extras plucked from London’s trendy Blitz nightclub. It was followed by many influential videos throughout the 1980s and 1990s, which became an effective vehicle for Bowie’s artistic expression and ever-evolving roster of character types.
  • David Bowie is Watching You
    Diamond Dogs

    Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour of 1974 was “a combination of contemporary music and theater . . . several years ahead of its time. . . the most original spectacle in rock I have ever seen.” So a writer for Melody Maker told its readers back in the UK.

    The tour’s dystopian cityscape aesthetic was inspired by George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. To bring his ambitious vision to life, Bowie assembled, alongside outstanding musicians, a stellar lineup of theatrical collaborators quite unlike that of any previous rock tour, including designers Jules Fisher and Mark Ravitz, and choreographer Toni Basil.

    After the first two months of touring, Bowie began to record the Young Americans album in Philadelphia. When he returned to the tour, he abandoned the elaborate set and revised the set list to include new songs (such as “Win”). The Year of the Diamond Dogs tour became The Soul Tour, sometimes referred to as “Philly Dogs.”

    Despite the spectacular artistic success of the tour (in both versions), no official film was shot. Footage from Philadelphia (where Bowie recorded the live album David Live) is shown in this exhibition for the first time.
  • David Bowie is Famous
    Young Americans

    During the Diamond Dogs tour, Bowie began to record music for his next album, Young Americans. Influenced in part by the music emerging from Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, the musical explorer Bowie turned in a new direction. The “Philadelphia Sound,” as it became known, was engineered by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell and featured large sections of strings and horns—a precursor to disco.

    Sigma Sound Studios was one of the first US studios to offer twenty-four-track recording. Bowie recorded much of the complex arrangements for Young Americans there, creating what he described as “plastic soul.” His new collaborators included vocalist Luther Vandross, drummer Andy Newmark (from Sly and the Family Stone), and guitarist Carlos Alomar—the last of whom would continue to work with Bowie for more than twenty years. A swift redirection from the theatrical songs of Diamond Dogs, Young Americans became his breakthrough album in America, yielding the title track and the No. 1 hit “Fame.”
  • David Bowie is Wearing a Mask of his Own Face
    Ziggy Stardust

    Bowie wanted “the music to look like it sounded.” His creation Ziggy Stardust added to his personae, whom Bowie seemed truly to inhabit, not just to act.

    The life story of the otherworldly Ziggy followed his rise and fall from fame. The character was loosely based on many influences, including eccentric rock ’n’ rollers Vince Taylor and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, as well as Bowie’s idol Little Richard. Along with his distinctive bright red haircut, Bowie wore fabulous and ever more flamboyant costumes, resulting in an increase in “costume changes” during the tour.

    In July 1973, at the height of Ziggy’s popularity, Bowie chose—characteristically—to surprise his fans (and some members of his band). Just before the song “Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide,” he announced, “Not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do.”
  • David Bowie is Wearing Many Masks
    Stage and Screen

    In the 1950s, when Bowie was growing up, his greatest idols were film stars. Pop singers—whose careers were often brief—sometimes transitioned to second careers in film and entertainment, as exemplified by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Seeing diversification as a key to a long career, Bowie trained with actor and mime artist Lindsay Kemp and began to audition for film and stage roles.

    In Bowie’s lifetime, he acted in more than twenty films, as well as on television (Baal) and in theater (The Elephant Man). His role in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth inspired the musical Lazarus, which he created with Enda Walsh in 2015.

    As an actor, Bowie played an eclectic cast of characters, both historical and imagined: Andy Warhol, Pontius Pilate, the Goblin King. Often preferring the cutting edge over the mainstream, he collaborated with international directors— from the Americans Tony Scott and David Lynch and the British American Christopher Nolan to Germany’s Uli Edel and Japan’s Nagisa Oshima.
  • David Bowie is Quite Aware of what he's Going Through
    “Black-and-White” Years

    David Bowie first saw Berlin from a train: he had completed his 1973 tour of Japan and hopped on the Trans-Siberian Railway en route back to England. It was West Berlin then, part of a divided city with an infamous past. Bowie was curious to see this city that had spawned many of his artistic touchstones: the films Metropolis and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the art group Die Brücke, and the musical Cabaret. When Bowie moved there in the mid-1970s, Germany was also the site for new music: Neu!, Kraftwerk, and Giorgio Moroder. Berlin became the anchor point for his groundbreaking triptych, Low (1977), “Heroes” (1977), and Lodger (1979).

    At 155 Hauptstrasse, Bowie left behind the pressures of celebrity in Los Angeles and relished anonymity in an older, grittier, war-torn, and divided city in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, “die Mauer.”

    These were the “black-and-white” years (black-and-white suits, black stage sets with white lighting), which included fourteen months of intense musical and artistic experimentation with Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, and Tony Visconti. In 2013, Bowie returned to the idea of an “undivided” Berlin in the song “Where Are We Now?”
  • David Bowie is Saying You're Wonderful Give Me Your Hands
    Touring

    “What a show . . . Bowie still manages to project more charisma during one song than most modern-day stars manage in a career.”
    —Maurice O’Brien, Irish Independent (Dublin), November 24, 2003

    David Bowie was a radically innovative live performer. In more than a thousand live dates in thirty-one countries, during twelve international tours between 1972 and 2004, he fused rock music with performance techniques from mime to street dance: “I could never consider putting something on the stage that doesn’t owe something to theater,” he said.

    He always attracted record audiences: eighty thousand people at a New Zealand gig in 1983, the largest crowd as a percentage of the population anywhere in the world that year, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

    He devised new ways to reach them, too: one of his gigs was beamed in 5.1 surround sound to more than fifty thousand viewers, in eighty-six cinemas in twenty-two countries in 2003. Through countless websites and BowieNet, the first Internet service provider launched by a musician, he continued to tour the world in virtual form.
  • David Bowie is Where We Are Now
    David Bowie was and continues to be an inspiration for musicians, performers, radicals, and artists. He channeled avant-garde influences into music and performances with mass appeal, and he had an uncanny ability to anticipate and define the direction of popular culture. His understanding of his audience, alongside a tendency toward bold and unpredictable steps, means that his artistic integrity remains uncompromised. For thousands, he is a conduit for new ideas and a visionary icon.

    Bowie’s death on January 10, 2016, just two days after his sixty-ninth birthday and the release of Blackstar, his acclaimed final album, evoked a phenomenal global outpouring of grief and marked the end of a golden era. To adapt a phrase coined by his record label in the 1970s, “There’s old music, there’s new music, and there’s David Bowie.”
  • David Bowie is a Success in New York
    Stage and Screen

    Beginning in 1971, Bowie was frequently in New York City, promoting albums, performing on tour dates, recording new music, and visiting nightclubs. His sold-out performances of Aladdin Sane at Radio City Music Hall are legendary. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and Berlin, Bowie lived in New York for extended periods, and in 1992 made New York City his permanent residence.

    In 1979, he was invited to be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Typically, a guest performed two or three songs with their band. Atypically, Bowie conceived of three distinct performance “events” for his appearance. Each was met with astonishment and applause.

    Soon after, Bowie prepared and performed The Elephant Man, also in an unconventional manner. Rather than using a prosthesis as in David Lynch’s film version, Bowie relied on his mime training and modulated his body to evoke John Merrick’s physical disabilities. Promoted as the first rock star on Broadway, Bowie drew big audiences for many months.
  • David Bowie is Teaching You that Things Always Change
    Space imagery and exploration have been continuing themes in David Bowie’s visualizations of music. Since “Space Oddity” in the late 1960s—the same period when astronaut William “Bill” Anders photographed Earth from outer space for the first time—Bowie cast himself as the astronaut Major Tom. His experiences as an astronaut were reprised in “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), “Hallo Spaceboy” (1995), and finally “Blackstar” (2015).

    Like a film, a Broadway show, or a television program in which the lead actor is closely associated with a particular role, Bowie wrote stories and characters that will forever be known as his. Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Halloween Jack, and the Thin White Duke were each so distinctive and thoughtful that the music, words, and images he assigned to them will always remind us of David Bowie.

    Here I am floating ‘round my tin can
    Far above the moon
    Planet Earth is blue
    And there’s nothing I can do

    —David Bowie, excerpt from “Space Oddity” lyrics
  • June 5, 2018 As the closing date for David Bowie is approaches, the Brooklyn Museum has announced two additional viewing days on Monday, July 9, and Tuesday, July 10, for the blockbuster exhibition’s final week. The exhibition, which closes July 15, is the fastest- and highest-selling exhibition in Brooklyn Museum history, and has welcomed more than 180,000 visitors since opening on March 2. Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, David Bowie is is the first retrospective of the extraordinary five-decade career of David Bowie—one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times.

    The exhibition has been on tour for the past five years, traveling to eleven venues around the world with a final stop in Brooklyn. On June 20, the Brooklyn Museum expects to welcome the tour’s two millionth visitor. The special visitor will receive a surprise package, including a signed lithograph of a self-portrait by Bowie that was used on the Outside album cover, a limited edition of the David Bowie is book, a pair of Sennheiser headphones, and a premium subscription to Spotify.

    Find more information on David Bowie is at https://bit.ly/2gb0oL9.

    The exhibition is curated by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh from the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V&A. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Matthew Yokobosky, Senior Curator, Fashion and Material Culture, Brooklyn Museum.

    Praise for David Bowie is
    “Electrifying…a far-reaching survey of [Bowie’s] artistry.”
    The New York Times
    “Go. Just Go…It’s so good—comprehensive without being suffocating, beautifully installed, a feast for the senses—that the serious fan will likely want to see it more than once.”
    Vogue
    “Stunning…it's impossible to walk more than a few inches without being dazzled.”
    Rolling Stone
    About the Brooklyn Museum
    Founded in 1823 as the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library Association, the Brooklyn Museum contains one of the nation’s most comprehensive and wide-ranging collections, enhanced by a distinguished record of exhibitions, scholarship, and service to the public. The Museum’s vast holdings span 5,000 years of human creativity from cultures in every corner of the globe. Collection highlights include ancient Egyptian holdings renowned for objects of the highest quality, and the Arts of the Americas collection, which is unrivaled in its range from Native American art and artifacts and Spanish colonial painting to 19th- and early 20thcentury American painting, sculpture, and decorative objects. The Museum is also home to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which is dedicated to the study and exhibition of feminist art and is the only curatorial center of its kind. The Brooklyn Museum is both a leading cultural institution and a community museum dedicated to serving a wide-ranging audience. Located in the heart of Brooklyn, the Museum welcomes and celebrates the diversity of its home borough and city. Few, if any, museums in the country attract an audience as varied with respect to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background, and age as the Brooklyn Museum. www.brooklynmuseum.org.

    About the V&A
    The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art, design, and performance with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make the worlds of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5,000 years of human ingenuity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to inspire the next generation and enrich everyone’s imagination. www.vam.ac.uk.

    About Sennheiser

    Sennheiser is shaping the future of audio—a vision built on more than 70 years of innovation culture, which is deeply rooted within the company. Founded in 1945, Sennheiser remains family-owned and is today one of the world’s leading manufacturers of headphones, microphones, and wireless transmission systems. With 20 sales subsidiaries and long-established trading partners, the company is active in more than 50 countries and operates its own production facilities in Germany, Ireland, and the USA. Sennheiser has around 2,800 employees around the world that share a passion for audio. Since 2013, Sennheiser has been managed by Daniel Sennheiser and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, the third generation of the family to run the company. In 2016, the Sennheiser Group had sales totaling 658.4 million. www.sennheiser.com.

    About Spotify
    Spotify transformed music listening forever when it launched in Sweden in 2008. Our mission today remains the same: to help more people listen to more great songs by delivering the ultimate music experience to fans and artists across the globe. Everything we do is driven by our love for music.

    Discover, manage and share over 30m songs for free, or upgrade to Spotify Premium to access exclusive features including offline mode, improved sound quality, Spotify Connect and ad-free listening. Today, Spotify is the world’s most popular music streaming service with a community of over 140m users, including over 60m subscribers, across 61 markets. We are the largest driver of revenue to the music business today.

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  • October 28, 2017 The Brooklyn Museum is proud to announce that it will be the final stop on the world tour of the critically acclaimed exhibition David Bowie is, organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The exhibition is the first retrospective of the extraordinary five-decade career of David Bowie—one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times. Curated by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh from the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V&A, David Bowie is explores the creative process of an artist whose sustained reinventions, innovative collaborations, and bold characterizations revolutionized the way we see music, inspired people to shape their own identities while also challenging social traditions. On view from March 2 to July 15, 2018, David Bowie is will include never-before-seen objects and work exclusive to the Brooklyn Museum presentation.

    As the official audio partner of the exhibition, Sennheiser will be delivering a captivating audio experience through its AMBEO® 3D audio technology. Also, as in prior David Bowie is exhibitions around the world, the company’s technologies will be used for all audio elements throughout the exhibition— including its wireless systems, headphones and Neumann loudspeakers. The advanced sound technology, alongside theatrical scene–setting, animation and video, provide an immersive journey through the artistic influences that Bowie cited as formative. With unprecedented access to his personal archive, David Bowie is features more than 300 objects collected from his teenage years through his death in 2016— including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork, and rare performance material.

    The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Matthew Yokobosky, Director of Exhibition Design, Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition is made possible with the lead sponsorship of Spotify.

    “Since David Bowie is left the V&A, London in August 2013, nearly 1.8 million visitors have flocked to see the exhibition as it has travelled around the world, a testament to Bowie’s depth, breadth and worldwide reach and the public’s interest in the processes of creation behind such a uniquely influential performer. Bowie himself left England in 1974 to eventually settle in America, so we could not be more delighted that the final leg of the tour brings the show back to New York, where Bowie made his home,” Victoria Broackes, Curator, V&A.

    “With mainstream appeal and yet an avant-garde heart, David Bowie was one of the most original artists of our times. He challenged the status quo and continually took us on new musical explorations with his forward-thinking and groundbreaking presentations. David Bowie continues to be the apex for many artists in wide-ranging disciplines,” said Matthew Yokobosky, Director of Exhibition Design, Brooklyn Museum.

    The exhibition explores the broad range of Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theater, art, and film. On display are more than 60 stage costumes including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973), and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the EART HL I NG album cover (1997). Also on show is photography by Brian Duffy, Terry O’Neill, and Masayoshi Sukita; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; cover proofs by Barnbrook for the album The Next Day (2013); visual excerpts from films and live performances including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Saturday Night Live (1979); music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging (1979) and Let’s Dance (1983); and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974).

    Alongside these are more personal items such as never-before-shown storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores, and diary entries, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas.

    “Music is a cultural force for good and I can think of few better examples than David Bowie as someone who has genuinely made the world a better and more interesting place through his unique talents in music, art and fashion,” said Troy Carter, Global Head of Creator Services at Spotify. “We are honored to partner with the Brooklyn Museum on this exhibition to celebrate the life of this great man.”

    About David Bowie is
    David Bowie is offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), it shows how he was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology, and youth culture in Britain in the aftermath of World War II. Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name “David Bowie” in 1965 and went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his later career. On display are early photographs, LPs from his musical heroes such as Little Richard, and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The King Bees in the 1960s. This opening section concludes with a focus on Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom, who would be revisited by Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie’s breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.

    The exhibition moves on to examine David Bowie’s creative processes from song writing, recording, and producing to designing costumes, stage sets, and album artwork. As he worked within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section reveals the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theater, and avant-garde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism, and Japanese Kabuki performance.

    On view are some of Bowie’s own musical instruments, footage, and photography of recording sessions for Outside (1995) and Hours… (1999) as well as handwritten lyrics and word collages inspired by William Burroughs’ “cut up” method of writing that have never previously been publicly displayed. David Bowie is chronicles his innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalized stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation: Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy’s daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signaling a challenge to social traditions and inspiring people to shape their own identities. On display is the original multi-colored suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, as well as outfits designed for stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. Costumes from The 1980 Floor Show (1973), album cover sleeves for The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971), alongside press cuttings and fan material, highlight Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.

    There is also an area dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the stylish Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and Stage tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 while living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy.

    Several immersive audio-visual spaces present dramatic projections of some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995), as well as recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973). A separate screening room shows excerpts and props from Bowie’s feature films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986) and Basquiat (1996).

    The final section celebrates David Bowie as a pioneering performer both on stage and in film, concentrating on key performances throughout his career. This gallery traces the evolution of the lavishly produced Diamond Dogs tour (1974), the design of which was inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The tour combined exuberant choreography by Toni Basil and a colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theater to new heights. On display are previously unseen storyboards and tour footage for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show.

    David Bowie is also includes a display of striking performance and fashion photographs taken by photographers including Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Mick Rock, and John Rowlands.

    David Bowie Archive
    Costumes, materials, and objects courtesy of the David Bowie Archive, with thanks to Archivist Sandra Hirshkowitz.

    Exhibition Publication

    The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated book edited by curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh. It is the first publication to draw in full from the David Bowie Archive and will be updated for the Brooklyn presentation. It features contributions from leading academics and experts in musicology and cultural history.

    Exhibition Merchandise
    The Brooklyn Museum Shop is offering a product range to complement the exhibition featuring limited edition of prints, books, fashion accessories, and t-shirts.

    About the Brooklyn Museum

    Founded in 1823 as the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library Association, the Brooklyn Museum contains one of the nation’s most comprehensive and wide-ranging collections enhanced by a distinguished record of exhibitions, scholarship, and service to the public. The Museum’s vast holdings span 5,000 years of human creativity from cultures in every corner of the globe. Collection highlights include the ancient Egyptian holdings, renowned for objects of the highest world-class quality, and the Arts of the Americas collection, which is unrivaled in its diverse range from pre-Columbian relics, Spanish colonial painting, and Native American art and artifacts, to 19th- and early 20th-century American painting, sculpture, and decorative objects. The Museum is also home to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which is dedicated to the study and exhibition of feminist art and is the only curatorial center of its kind. The Brooklyn Museum is both a leading cultural institution and a community museum dedicated to serving a wide-ranging audience. Located in the heart of Brooklyn, the Museum welcomes and celebrates the diversity of its home borough and city. Few, if any, museums in the country attract an audience as varied with respect to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational background, and age as the audience of the Brooklyn Museum. www.BrooklynMuseum.org

    About the V&A
    The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make words of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5,000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform. www.vam.ac.uk

    About Sennheiser
    Sennheiser is shaping the future of audio—a vision built on more than 70 years of innovation culture, which is deeply rooted within the company. Founded in 1945, Sennheiser remains family-owned and is today one of the world’s leading manufacturers of headphones, microphones and wireless transmission systems. With 20 sales subsidiaries and long-established trading partners, the company is active in more than 50 countries and operates its own production facilities in Germany, Ireland and the USA. Sennheiser has around 2,800 employees around the world that share a passion for audio. Since 2013, Sennheiser has been managed by Daniel Sennheiser and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, the third generation of the family to run the company. In 2016, the Sennheiser Group had sales totaling 658.4 million. www.sennheiser.com

    About Spotify
    Spotify transformed music listening forever when it launched in Sweden in 2008. Our mission today remains the same: to help more people listen to more great songs by delivering the ultimate music experience to fans and artists across the globe. Everything we do is driven by our love for music.

    Discover, manage and share over 30m songs for free, or upgrade to Spotify Premium to access exclusive features including offline mode, improved sound quality, Spotify Connect and ad-free listening. Today, Spotify is the world’s most popular music streaming service with a community of over 140m users, including over 60m subscribers, across 61 markets. We are the largest driver of revenue to the music business today.

    David Bowie is is organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
    Sound experience provided by Sennheiser.
    Lead sponsorship for this exhibition is provided by Spotify.
    Generous support provided by BMW.
    Preferred Hotel Partner NU Hotel.

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  • February 4, 2018 As the final venue of the David Bowie is global, five-year tour, the Brooklyn Museum is proud to announce an extensive calendar of public programs that celebrate the late artist’s creative process and cultural impact. Programs will continue throughout the exhibition’s full run, from March 2 to July 15.

    Visit brooklynmuseum.org for more information and tickets. Make sure to follow @brooklynmuseum on Twitter and Facebook for programming updates.

    NOTE: Programs do not include admission to David Bowie is (visit brooklynmuseum.org to purchase tickets).

    Select public programs follow:

    Thursday, March 8, 7–9 pm
    Little Cinema Presents
    Basquiat
    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets are $16.

    Little Cinema presents an immersive screening of the biographical drama Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996, 108 min.), featuring David Bowie as Andy Warhol. This film honors the legacy of two artistic legends, Jean- Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and explores their relationship against the backdrop of the changing New York City art scene of the 1980s. The screening is layered with live performances by Brian Kelly and The Love Show, and live mixing by CHNNLS.

    Thursday, March 29, 7–9 pm
    The Bowie Songbook with Burnt Sugar Arkestra

    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets are $16.

    Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber pays tribute to David Bowie’s songbook with an evening of experimental covers. Bowie’s hits are reimagined through soul, jazz, and hip-hop by this landmark New York City group whose work bridges styles and genres to represent the breadth and depth of diasporic music in the twenty-first century.

    Wednesday, April 4, 7 pm
    Little Cinema Presents
    The Man Who Fell to Earth
    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets are $16.

    Little Cinema presents an immersive screening of the sci-fi masterpiece The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976, 139 min.), featuring Bowie in his acting debut as an alien who travels to Earth in search of water to save his home planet. Screening is layered with live music by members of Bowie’s recent band that worked on his last album, Blackstar (2016); live mixing by CHNNLS; and dance and choreography by Katherine Crockett.

    Thursday, April 5, 7–9 pm
    Brooklyn Talks: Tony Visconti

    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets start at $25.

    Legendary record producer, musician, and singer Tony Visconti shares stories from his forty-year creative partnership with David Bowie and his experience collaborating on the artist’s final album, Blackstar (2016).

    Saturday, April 7, 5–11 pm
    Target First Saturday with adidas

    Museum-wide
    Free.

    David Bowie’s former collaborators and contemporary Brooklyn artists honor Bowie’s legacy in an evening of live music, film, performance, conversation, and art-making activities.

    Friday, April 20, 5–7:30 pm
    Teen Night: Currents and Bolts

    Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
    Free and open to all teens 14+.

    Teens aged 14+ are invited to attend this free event that celebrates the groundbreaking cultural influence of David Bowie. Planned by the Museum’s Teen Night Planning Committee, it includes live music, performances, art-making, film, talks, and workshops.

    Friday, May 18, 8–11 pm
    SOLD OUT—Dance Party: Night of 1,000 Bowies

    Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
    Tickets start at $10. This event is now sold out.

    Wear your best David Bowie look to a dance party presented in partnership with Brooklyn-based music and art venue House of Yes and with Little Cinema. The evening includes DJs and live performances that celebrate the many faces of Bowie, and a Bowie-inspired makeup station and photo booth. Costumes are encouraged, but not required.

    Thursdays in June, 7–9 pm
    Film Series

    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets are $10 or all three for $25.

    June 7, The Hunger
    A 35th anniversary screening of The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983, 97 min.), featuring David Bowie as a rapidly aging vampire alongside costars Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve.

    June 14, Little Cinema Presents Labyrinth
    Little Cinema reimagines the cult classic Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986, 101 min.), featuring David Bowie as the Goblin King, in an immersive screening layered with live theatrical performances by artists, musicians, dancers, and circus performers.

    June 21, Velvet Goldmine
    A nod to 1970s glam rock, Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998, 118 min.) is a fictional drama that draws inspiration from the style and personas of David Bowie and his peers.

    Friday, June 8, 5–7 pm
    LGBTQ Teen Night

    Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
    Free and open to all LGBTQ+ teens and their allies, ages 14+.

    Planned by our LGBTQ Teen Night Planning Committee, this free evening invites LGBTQ+ teens and allies to explore work by artists who transcend gender, such as David Bowie, or those who reimagine a black, queer, femme art history, such as Mickalene Thomas. The event includes live music, performances, art-making, film, talks, and workshops.

    Thursday, June 28, 7 pm
    Music Video Night: David Bowie

    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets start at $10.

    Los Angeles media company Mass Appeal returns to the Brooklyn Museum to present an evening of classic Davie Bowie music videos. The evening closes with a conversation with acclaimed “Life on Mars” director Mick Rock.

    Saturday, July 14, 2 pm
    Closing Talk: David Bowie’s Legacy

    Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
    Tickets are $16.

    Join Daphne Brooks, Chief Curator of the symposium Blackstar Rising & The Purple Reign: Celebrating the Legacies of David Bowie and Prince, and Jack Halberstam, author of Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (2012), for a conversation on David Bowie’s legacy. As leading scholars in African American and gender studies, respectively, Brooks and Halberstam explore Bowie’s performance through an intersectional lens of race and gender.

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