Extensive archive of David Bowie’s life and work to be made public in 2025

Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent

Thu, 23 February 2023 at 12:01 am GMT

An extensive archive of David Bowie’s life, work and legacy will go on display to the public for the first time in 2025, it has been announced.

Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V and A), the exhibition will include more than 80,000 items that span six decades of the cultural icon’s career.

They will be made available to the public through the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts, which will open in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

David Bowie The Reality Tour
Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, the exhibition will include more than 80,000 items that span six decades of the cultural icon’s career (PA)

It will allow fans and researchers alike to get up close and gain new insights into Bowie’s creative process like never before, the V and A said.

The collection will feature handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, album artwork and awards.

It will also include instruments owned by the world-famous musician, as well as writings and unrealised projects never before seen in public.

Highlights include stage costumes such as Bowie’s breakthrough Ziggy Stardust ensembles, designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972, Kansai Yamamoto’s creations for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973, and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the 1997 Earthling album cover.

David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust ensemble designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972 (
David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust ensemble designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972 (

The archive also includes over 70,000 photographs, prints, negatives, slides and contact sheets taken by some of the 20th century’s leading photographers from Terry O’Neill to Brian Duffy and Helmut Newton.

Its acquisition by the V and A and the creation of the centre was made possible thanks to the David Bowie Estate and £10 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.

Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V and A, said: “David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time.

“The V and A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive, and to be able to open it up for the public.

(John Robert Rowlands/ The David Bowie Archive/PA)
(John Robert Rowlands/ The David Bowie Archive/PA)

“Bowie’s radical innovations across music, theatre, film, fashion, and style – from Berlin to Tokyo to London – continue to influence design and visual culture and inspire creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons.

“Our new collections centre, V&A East Storehouse, is the ideal place to put Bowie’s work in dialogue with the V and A’s collection spanning 5,000 years of art, design, and performance.

“My deepest thanks go to the David Bowie Estate, Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group for helping make this a reality and for providing a new sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow.”

Handwritten lyrics by Bowie also form part of the collection (V and A/PA)
Handwritten lyrics by Bowie also form part of the collection (V and A/PA)

A spokesperson from the David Bowie Estate, added: “With David’s life’s work becoming part of the UK’s national collections, he takes his rightful place amongst many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses.

“The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performance – and the behind the scenes access that V and A East Storehouse offers – will mean David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that haven’t been possible before.

“We’re so pleased to be working closely with the V and A to continue to commemorate David’s enduring cultural influence.”

Max Lousada, chief executive of recorded music at Warner Music Group, said: “As the stewards of David Bowie’s extraordinary music catalogue, we’re delighted to expand our relationship with his estate through this partnership with the V&A.

“This archive promises to be an unparalleled display of individual artistic brilliance, invention, and transformation.

“Bowie’s influence only grows in stature over time, and this will be an enduring celebration of his profound legacy.”

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