V&A acquires Bowie archive museum, will display it

london — From Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, the many faces and inspirations of David Bowie are finding a permanent home in London.

British Victoria The & Albert Museum announced Thursday that it has acquired Bowie’s archive of more than 80,000 items as a gift from the late musician’s estate. The vast array of costumes, musical instruments, letters, lyrics, photographs and more will be opened to the public at a new arts center dedicated to the chameleon pop icon.

The David Bowie Center for the Study of the Performing Arts is due to open in 2025 as part of V&A East Storehouse, an offshoot of the UK’s national art, design and performance museum being built in east London’s Olympic Park.

The V&A said the center will allow fans and researchers to gain insight into the creative process of Bowie, who died in 2016 aged 69.

Kate Bailey, the museum’s senior curator of theater and performance, said the archive was an “extraordinary” record of a creator whose “life was art”.

“Bowie is a polymath, he’s versatile. He was inspired by all genres and disciplines,” she said. “He’s an artist who was really working in 360 — drawing from literature, but also drawing from art history … (and) the places he’s been.”

The musician – born David Jones as usual in the suburbs of London in 1947 – reinvented himself relentlessly, creating and releasing people as he moved through musical styles from country rock to glam to soul to electronica.

He created a series of larger-than-life stage characters, mining influences from German Expressionist cinema to Japanese Kabuki Theatre. He later influenced musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers and advertisers.

Some of the items in the archive were part of “David Bowie Is,” a multimedia exhibition that toured the world after a sold-out run at the V.& A in London in 2013.

There are some iconic items, such as a colorful quilted suit designed by Freddie Burretti for the creation of Bowie’s alien rock star Ziggy Stardust, Kansai Yamamoto’s futuristic creation for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973 or the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the cover of the 1997 Earthling Album.

Others are more personal, including letters, handwritten lyrics to songs including the song “Heroes,” and notebooks that Bowie kept throughout his life. The archives also contain more than 70,000 photographs, slides and images.

The museum acquired the archive from Bowie’s estate and also received a 10 million pound ($12 million) donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group to display it at V.&A East, as part of a new quarter of culture and technology rising on the site of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

David Bowie’s Estate said “with David’s life’s work now part of the UK’s national collections, it takes its rightful place among many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses.”

V& Director Tristram Hunt called Bowie “one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time.”

“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,” he said.

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