Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The kind of David Bowie exhibition I'd like to see

At today's press launch for the exhibition David Bowie Is, which is coming up next March at the V&A, they had three of his costumes on display. There was the Ashes To Ashes pierrot suit, the Union flag frock coat designed by Alexander McQueen and one of the Ziggy Stardust outfits, for which the brief was droog via Laura Ashley.

The people talking about the exhibition were keen to stress that it was more than a display of costumes, which suggests that it will be a display of costumes. Seeing famous outfits on mannequins always leaves me somewhat underwhelmed. What they should really do is let you try them on.

I was trying to think of the kind of memorabilia exhibition I would really like to see. I guess mine would be less spectacular, more suited to the detailed displays you could pore over in glass cases than the high-impact items around which most exhibitions are built. When we go round art galleries my wife looks at the pictures first and then at the captions. I look at the captions first and then the pictures. I've decided I'm a narrative person.

That's why I'd like to see his childhood bedroom recreated, displays of Bromley town centre through the years, old school books, cheap guitars, bassdrum pedals, a chronology of his haircuts, marked-up tape boxes, old contracts, personal letters, sketches, false starts, crossings-out, studio logs, mixing consoles, bits of kit, clipping from FAB 208, preposterous film scripts, storyboards for videos, things thrown on stage by fans and, most of all, a royalty statement for Tin Machine.


  1. Yes totally agree but also a list of preferred drugs and the approximate cost over different periods and the % influence over work output.

  2. Will there be a selection of bippity boppity hats?

  3. They had a cracker of an expo at our local gallery over the summer. Thames Delta - collecting together all things Southend, Canvey and Basildon. Lee Brilleaux's (age 12) hand drawn map of Canvey as a Treasure Island, Wilko's artwork and original Telecaster. Mickey Jupp and Robin Trower donations. Flyers for Bowie playing the local folk-pit. Then the Depeche, Yazoo and the New Town Electro scene.

    Although oversight alert: Talk Talk didn't get a look in...

  4. They did something similar at Tate Modern's Francis Bacon exhibition a couple of years ago when they recreated his studio with personal artefacts. Absolutely brilliant.

  5. About 10 years ago, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I saw a hand scrawled letter that Bruce Springsteen had written and placed on a shelf (or in the fridge, possibly) explaining to the other guys what cereal they could and, more importantly, could not eat.

    I found that far more interesting than cabinets displaying the shirts he wore on his record covers or
    guitars he's played in concert.

  6. I once tried to find a list of what records Elvis owned when he died. I know this is a bit geek-y, but I'm interested.

    As far as I could make out (Elvis' Record Collection To Be Released), Elvis Presley Enterprises has catalogued his collection, but has never made it public.

    It's what I'd like to see if there's ever an Elvis exhibition.

  7. matty - It's not Elvis's entire record collection, but Scotty Moore has a bunch of 78s that Elvis owned sitting in his house outside Nashville. There's a list of them here:

  8. I see now that Scotty sold the collection a couple of years ago (he still had it when I visited him three years ago).