LONDON — The Victoria and Albert Museum has secured the rights to the archive of David Bowie, the cultural institution revealed Wednesday.
Beginning in 2025, the archive of more than 80,000 items that connect to the artist’s six-decade-long career will be made available to the public through the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at V&A East Storehouse, in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
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The acquisition and creation of the center were made possible thanks to the David Bowie Estate and a donation of 10 million pounds from the Ukrainian-born, American-British businessman Leonard Blavatnik’s family foundation and Warner Music Group.
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said: “David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time.…Bowie’s radical innovations across music, theater, film, fashion and style — from Berlin to Tokyo to London — continue to influence the design and visual culture and inspire creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons.
“Our new collections center, V&A East Storehouse, is the ideal place to put Bowie’s work in dialogue with the V&A’s collection spanning 5,000 years of art, design and performance,” Hunt added.
The archive contains a wide range of items that include handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments, album artwork and awards. It also includes more intimate writings, thought processes and unrealized projects, the majority of which have never been seen by the public.
Fashion highlights among them include the Ziggy Stardust ensembles designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s dazzling creations for the “Aladdin Sane” tour, and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the “Earthling” album cover.
Tilda Swinton, a friend and collaborator of Bowie’s, said the V&A’s “David Bowie Is…” exhibition in 2013 showed “unquestionable evidence that Bowie is a spectacular example of an artist who not only made unique and phenomenal work but who has an influence and inspiration far beyond that work itself. Ten years later, the continuing regenerative nature of his spirit grows ever further in popular resonance and cultural reach down through younger generations.”
V&A East Storehouse is a new purpose-built home for more than 250,000 objects, 350,000 books and 1,000 archives for the museum’s vast collection. It’s scheduled to open next year.
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