Ground Control to New Yorkers: This is the world’s last chance to see the blockbuster touring exhibition David Bowie is. Nearly 2 million people across five continents have viewed the show and the final countdown is March 2 to July 15, 2018, at the Brooklyn Museum, ending in Bowie’s chosen home, New York City.
Look Inside: Photos from the Exhibition
What’s the Exhibition About?
The exhibition debuted in 2013 at the The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London – three years before the iconic musician’s death in 2016. It features nearly 500 items, with more than 300 from Bowie’s personal archive, plus a fantastic “Sound and Vision” immersion with video and an innovative 3D audio experience that follows you with Bowie songs and observations – no button pressing. This iteration of David Bowie is has special additions for New York City: among them Diamond Dogs tour footage on public display for the first time; Bowie’s drawings for his last album Blackstar; props and plans for his performances on Saturday Night Live, and fan art going back to the reign of Ziggy in the 1970s.
Bowie is a music legend, but his focus on spectacle made his archive a gold mine for the V&A’s Theater and Performance curators. Bowie performed in character, not as himself; his album and tour Diamond Dogs was originally intended as a stage musical; he drafted his cinematic storyboards for the earliest music videos; used his mime and dance training in concerts and videos, accompanied by avant garde dance companies.
He wasn’t interested in just being heard, he wanted to be seen.
I’m out all the time to entertain, not just to get upon a stage and knock out a few songs. I couldn’t live with myself if I did that. I’m the last person to pretend that I’m a radio. I’d rather go out and be a color television set.
Bowie’s blowing up of norms like gender and sexuality wasn’t just witnessed by his devoted glam rock fan base, but by general audiences who saw his appearances on popular variety and talk shows from the comfort of their more conventional homes.
Insight into Bowie’s creative process unfolds in handwritten lyrics, a bespoke computer program to randomize phrases, set and prop designs, album art work and culminates in those now familiar but groundbreaking music videos and famously coveted costumes and platform shoes.
Bowie’s artistic influences, from Japanese Kabuki theater to author William Burroughs and rock n’ roll’s Little Richard are addressed in themed areas (there’s little chronological order at the exhibition).
The contemporaries who epitomized cool to Bowie and inspired his dream to live in New York? Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground (hear an interview about his history with Lou Reed in this American Masters clip).
For fans of the 80s, there’s quite a bit on Bowie’s star turn as Jareth, the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, but less so on Let’s Dance (1983), the hit pop album co-produced with Nile Rodgers (for Rodgers’ insight into that collaboration, watch Front and Center: Songwriters Hall of Fame: Nile Rodgers, streaming now).
Our strongest advice for Bowie devotees is to book tickets in advance for this exhibition. And as you become enthralled with his creative process in each themed nook, remember to reserve time for the room of huge screens that present concert montages of iconic performances, including “Heroes” from The Concert for New York City (2002). You’ll get goosebumps, or even shed a tear.
Exhibition by the Numbers
The exhibition has 26 themed sections, with approximately 500 objects.
Performance Costumes: 60
Drawings by Bowie: 35
Handwritten Lyric Sheets: 85
Video: 51 (music videos, television clips, filmed roles, tour footage.
March 2 to July 15, 2018. Timed tickets: $20 for Adults, $12 for Seniors and Students ages 13 and up, $6 for Children ages 4–12 on weekdays; and $25 for Adults, $16 for Seniors and Students ages 13 and up, $10 for Children ages 4–12 on weekends. Brooklyn Museum Members receive free entrance.
Go to the Brooklyn Museum site to book tickets and for more information and related events on the calendar, including talks, performances and screenings of David Bowie feature films.