David Bowie is
September 25 – November 27, 2013
Album Cover shoot for Alladin Sane, 1973. (Photo by Brian Duffy) © Duffy Archive
TORONTO - Straight from its record-breaking run in London, David Bowie is makes its first North American stop at the AGO and offers Toronto audiences the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience 300+ objects that have been brought together for the very first time. David Bowie is - the multi-sensory collision of music, art and fashion about the icon who redefined pop culture.
The exhibition will explore the broad range of Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film. On display will be 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 Earthling album cover (1997). Also on show will be photography by Brian Duffy, Terry O’Neill and Masayoshi Sukita; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; 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).
Bodysuit for the Alladin Sane tour, 1973. Design by Kansai Yamamoto (© The David Bowie Archive)
Alongside these will be more personal items such as never-before-seen 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.
“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate a living artist whose radical artfulness of identity has had an enormous influence on art, design and contemporary culture as we know it,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, director and CEO of the AGO. “We are thrilled to work with the world-class V&A in bringing the provocative genius and vision of David Bowie to Toronto.”
The exhibition will offer 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 will show how he was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology and youth culture in Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War. 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 will be 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.
Photo-college by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell To Earth , 1975-6. © V&A
This opening section will conclude 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 will move on to examine David Bowie’s creative processes from song writing, recording and producing to designing costumes, stage sets and album artwork. Working within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section will reveal the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theatre and avantgarde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki performance.
Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen (© Frank W Ockenfels 3)
On show will be 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 will chronicle his innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalised 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, signalling a challenge of social traditions and inspiring people to shape their own identities. On display will be the original multi-coloured 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, will highlight Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.
Red platform boots for the 1973 'Alladin Sane' tour (Courtesy of the David Bowie Archive) © V&A Museum
The final section will celebrate David Bowie as a pioneering performer both on stage and in film, concentrating on key performances throughout his career. An immersive audio-visual space will 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 will show excerpts and props from Bowie’s feature films such as Labyrinth (1986) and Basquiat (1996).
In addition, this gallery will trace 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 and a colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theatre to new heights. On display will be previously unseen tour footage and storyboards for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show. An area will also be 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 tour (1976). It will also investigate the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy.
Ice-blue suit, 1972. Designed by Freddie Burretti for the 'Life on Mars?' video. © V&A Museum
David Bowie is will conclude with a display of striking performance and fashion photography taken by photographers including Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands. These professional portraits will be juxtaposed with a collage of visual projections illustrating Bowie’s immense creative influence and ubiquitous presence in music, fashion and contemporary visual and virtual culture.
Source: V&A, AGO
SAVE THE DATE
Official Opening Party
Art Gallery of Ontario
Friday, September 27
9 pm – 1 am