The V&A Museum has acquired the entire David Bowie archive and is preparing to open a new permanent space dedicated to the late icon. In 2025, the institution will launch The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts – described as a “sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow” – which will be located at the new V&A East Storehouse, in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford.
Within this, more than 80,000 items – spanning six decades of Bowie’s iconic career – will be made public for the first time. The creation of the new centre will provide an intimate window into his self-expression and thought processes, from the start of his career in the 1960s until his death in 2016.
Bowie is widely considered one of the most influential figures of all time in music, film and fashion. This collection will include handwritten lyrics (for songs like Fame and Ashes to Ashes), personal letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, set designs, his own instruments, awards and unreleased projects.
Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said in a statement: “The V&A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive and to be able to open it up for the public. 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&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.”
Some of Bowie’s most memorable looks will go on display, including his Ziggy Stardust ensembles, designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972; his Union Jack coat, designed alongside Alexander McQueen for the Earthling 1997 album cover; and Dansai Yamamoto’s vibrant creations for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour.
Tilda Swinton, one of Bowie’s friends and collaborators, explained how important carrying on his legacy is for inspiring the next generation of creatives.
“The continuing regenerative nature of his spirit grows ever further in popular resonance and cultural reach down through younger generations,” says Swindon. “In acquiring his archive for posterity, the V&A will now be able to offer access to David Bowie’s history – and the portal it represents – not only to practising artists from all fields, but to every last one of us, and for the foreseeable future.”