The international exhibition about the pop and style icon David Bowie in Berlin
This exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London sees the myth of the exceptional artist returning to the city where he wrote music history at the end of the 1970s. Berlin owes him its links to international pop culture.
Divided Cold War Berlin – which in the 1970s became a refuge for drop-outs, artists, mavericks and draft dodgers – was a safe haven for Bowie and a constant, dynamic source of inspiration. He lived in the city, which was still heavily marked by the War, from 1976 to 1978; these be some of his most productive years, resulting in the three albums of the so-called „Berlin Trilogy“: Low, Heroes (both 1977) and Lodger (1979).
Relying on state of the art multimedia technology, David Bowie creates an immersive exhibition experience revolving around the exceptional artist, focusing on the many sidedness of Bowie’s oeuvre and the close interplay of his numerous disciplines and forms of expression. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London was given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international exhibition about Bowie’s extraordinary career and celebrate one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times. The exhibition David Bowie explores the creative processes of a musical innovator and cultural icon, tracing his shifting style and sustained reinvention across five decades. The V&A’s Theatre and Performance curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh selected more than 300 objects that were brought together for the very first time. They include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments and album artwork. The exhibition honours Bowie’s progressive approach through its immersive audio-visual design, which fuses image and sound into a unique exhibition experience.
The exhibition David Bowie retraces his career in great detail – from David Robert Jones’
early years as a young London artist until he became the global superstar Bowie. 60
stage costumes are presented, including the Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Freddie
Burretti (1972), Kansai Yamamoto’s extravagant designs for the Aladdin Sane tour
(1973) as well as the iconic Union Jack coat that Bowie designed together with
Alexander McQueen for the album cover of Earthling (1997).
Other objects include photographs by Brian Duffy, Terry O’Neill, Masayoshi Sukita, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands; album covers by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell, clips from films and live concerts, including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Saturday Night Live (1979); music videos of such songs as Boys Keep Swinging (1979) and Let’s Dance (1983); the stage set for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974); unpublished storyboards, handwritten set lists and song lyrics, word collages as well as drawings, notes and diary entries from Bowie’s personal collection.
Due to Bowie’s close ties to the city, the exhibition’s station in Berlin is one of the
highlights of its international tour. The city’s rich cultural past and the buzzing subcultures
of the 1970s provided further inspiration. Exclusively for Berlin, the exhibition’s section on
the German capital has been expanded by the organisers, international communications
agency Avantgarde. Project manager for the exhibition Sarah Zimmermann explains the
idea behind developing the content of the Berlin section: „We never doubted for an
instant that the exhibition David Bowie belongs to Berlin. We quickly realised that we wanted to highlight Bowie’s creative period in the divided city more strongly. The focus lies on his sources of inspiration, the people he met and the places that influenced him.“
The newly selected exhibits, many of which are on public display for the first time in Berlin, illustrate David Bowie’s artistic development during his time in the German capital. They include sketches for record covers, drawings and paintings by David Bowie, song lyrics and previously unpublished photographs.
David Bowie was strongly drawn to German Expressionism and the artists of „Die
Brücke“ in particular. He frequently visited the Brücke Museum in Dahlem. Avantgarde is
pleased to be able to show the oil painting Roquairol (1917) and the colour woodcut
Männerbildnis („Portrait of a Man“) (1919) by Expressionist artist Erich Heckel, two
milestones in Bowie’s connection of Expressionist creative forms with his own artistic
endeavours in Berlin. While Roquairol influenced the pose struck on the Iggy Pop cover
for The Idiot (1977, production and cover photograph by David Bowie), the
Männerbildnis influenced the „Heroes“ cover (1977).
A large photo collage of Bowie’s 1970s Berlin, including photographic material that has
never been on public display before, creates a bridge for visitors between the events that
occurred nearly 40 years ago and today’s Berlin. Places and people significant for Bowie
during his Berlin years are introduced, including the Hauptstraße 155 in Schöneberg the
Hansa Studios („The Hall by the Wall“), nightclubs such as Dschungel, Chez Romy Haag
or SO 36, where Bowie and the international bohemian scene honed both their own
myth and the myth of the Berlin nightlife – one of radical constructions of personality, a
radical sound, and a new way of partying.
Berlin was also where Bowie filmed „Just a Gigolo“, Marlene Dietrich’s last film. The
exhibition’s extended section will show some of the correspondence between David
Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, which has never been shown to the public before. The
letters date from 1978, when both were working on the film.
Until August 24, 2014
Text and Photos: Courtesy of Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.