David Bowie exhibition V&A’s most-visited touring show

2 million people have viewed David Bowie is, making the museum exhibition the V&A’s most-visited touring show.

A print from Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane by photographer Brian Duffy has been presented to the museum to celebrate the huge success of the exhibition.

David Bowie is launched at the V&A in 2013. Since then, the show has been mounted at 11 venues in ten countries. It is now officially the most-visited international touring show in the 165-year history of the V&A. The exhibition closes on 15th July at its last stop, New York’s Brooklyn Museum.

The V&A’s chairman, Nicholas Coleridge CBE, announced the record-breaking figures, and the gift, at the museum’s annual summer party.

“It’s a remarkable achievement for the V&A and testament to the enduring influence of one of Britain’s greatest creative talents – that David Bowie is, is our most successful touring show in the museum’s history,” said Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A. “Enjoyed by millions in the UK and around the world, it is a testament to the role arts and culture plays in bringing people together.”

Hunt’s vision for the V&A under his leadership is to continue the founding principle of democratising access to beauty.

David Bowie is was the first international retrospective of the extraordinary musician and cultural icon. His work was explored through over 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, photographs, set designs, album artwork and rare performance material. Inevitably it also displayed some of the performer’s flamboyant stage costumes. The collection, which spans the last 50 years, was curated from the David Bowie Archive. It clearly shows how Bowie’s constantly shifting style was influenced by a wide melange of art, design, theatre and contemporary culture.

Around 312,000 people saw the exhibition while it premiered at the V&A in London. The museum had to open late to handle demand to view the sell-out show. The exhibition was also the subject of a feature film, David Bowie is happening now.

David Bowie V and A Aladdin SaneRarely seen colour transparency

The donated print comes from a rarely seen colour transparency from a photo session for Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane. It has been gifted by the Duffy Archive.

Duffy and Bowie worked together over a number of years and albums. Duffy produced imagery for the 1979 cover artwork of Lodger and, the following year, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

The V&A had liaised with the Duffy Archive back in 2013 to select a previously unpublished image from the Aladdin Sane contact sheet to use as the main image for the David Bowie exhibition.

“We’re delighted Brian Duffy’s iconic portrait of David Bowie will take its place amongst the national collection of Theatre & Performance,’ commented Tristram Hunt.

“The Aladdin Sane image, featuring David Bowie painted with a lighting ‘flash’, is one of the best known and most copied images of the late 20th Century,” said Chris Duffy, Director of the Duffy Archive. “Today, it is instantly recognised around the world. My father greatly enjoyed his unique creative partnership with David. I think he would be delighted that his work is joining the V&A’s collection, and that it has contributed to the continued public interest in one of the UK’s great creative forces.”

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, also commented on the gift. “This gift to the V&A celebrates David Bowie’s seismic cultural importance and the huge contribution Brian Duffy made to 20th century photography.” He also highlighted how the exhibition has helped promote British culture to the world. “The unparalleled success of ‘David Bowie is’ highlights the strength of V&A’s collection and the enormous benefits of international collaboration.”

Image: V&A