Review: David Bowie Is

Last week I took a short break because my mum came to visit me. We´re both big fans of David Bowie, so during our trip to London we went to see an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum dedicated to his work. If you happen to be a fan: online tickets are sold out, but if you show up early on the day you might be lucky. As we were.

Bowie recently released his new album, The Next Day, and the overwhelmingly positive response shows that he’s anything but an old former entertainer. In fact, the man still has it. And it’s great to see how he got this far. Of course the exhibition shows the kind of items you’d expect – costumes, videos, paintings.

But there’s more. It shows how hits like Space Oddity and Rebel Rebel came into being; literally by displaying Bowie’s handwritten notes. It also shows that Bowie is more than a musician: his storyboards for music videos, designs for stage costumes, letters to people he has worked with – it’s all there.

I was most impressed, however, by the context the exhibition provided. I’m a big fan of A Clockwork Orange and J.G. Ballard, to name just a few examples, and the exhibition shows how these influenced Bowie. His music is never conceived in isolation; it exists in a dialogue with other works of art and other artists.

And finally, there was the music. I normally don’t like sound experiences – they turn people into zombies – but this one was appropriate. As I walked through the exhibition songs were played when I looked at costumes used in their videos, and countless people who worked with Bowie mumbled in my ears. It was truly magical.

Would I recommend this exhibition? To fans, definitely. But even if you don’t really like Bowie’s work, it’s an intriguing peek into the mind of one of the most briliant contemporary artists. I found the exhibition’s title a bit pretentious at first, but now I have to agree. David Bowie is…indeed.

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