David Bowie is… is a disturbing exhibition.
For a start there is the large number of greying glam rockers feeling the agonies of unrequited love all over again as they stand mesmerised by Bowie costumes, videos and portraits. Then there is the problem of everybody wearing audio guides and shuffling around in the near-darkness like a troupe of zombies from some Diamond Dogs style dystopia. And there is the fact that the concentration of the Bowie phenomenon was the 1970s, forty years ago and there have been some less edifying creative moments since – this is addressed by ornamenting the full length of the show with 70s highlights thereby confusing any chronology and sense of evolution.
This is a new kind of exhibition: an examination of a single living individual as cultural catalyst and all round icon. There are not many artists who warrant such attention. David Bowie does. The blanket media coverage of his creative rebirth and the simultaneous hype surrounding this show have produced a dazzling glare illuminating, rather than over-exposing, his significance as musician, fashion pioneer and popular conceptualist.
The outfits are still extraordinary, the music is still inspiring and the man still appears exotically beautiful. Everybody is seduced by his art once again. However it is the way he redefined gender that is probably his most important legacy. Is there any more widely cited televisual epiphany than the draping of Bowie’s arm over Mick Ronson’s shoulder on Top of the Pops? That is the closest we have come to an extraterrestrial invasion – the starman blew our minds.
Continues until 11 August 2013, more information and become and V&A member here.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Chris Kenny.