Donation News

Estate of David Bowie at the V&A

The estate of David Bowie, rock legend, has donated over 80,000 pieces of his personal collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum for public display.

David Bowie, who passed away in 2016, collected material related to his career and creative process all his adult life. From the significant to the mundane, he appears to have kept nearly everything he touched.

“He was keeping and documenting his creative process, whether that was an album cover, a song lyric, a stage set or a look . . . The fact that he had the vision to document and archive it is unbelievable,” said Kate Bailey, a senior curator for theaters and performances at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). She added that it was ‘unprecedented’ for an artist like Bowie, an artist who made his own mark on so many musical genres, to preserve an archive of their own interior workings on such a scale.

“His music is lasting. But when you start to see the sense of the visual journeys he went on and his personal research, that’s when it takes on this other kind of richness.”

The collection includes notable costume pieces, such as several of the flamboyant Ziggy Stardust costumes and the bodysuit from the 1973 ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour. It includes instruments, like Brian Eno’s synthesizer and amp, various guitars, and the Stylophone used in “Space Oddity.” And perhaps most enticingly, it includes ‘intimate notebooks,’ journals filled with Bowie’s ideas, thoughts, and projects. The material in the notebooks alone could furnish enough for new documentaries.

To house the massive donation by the estate of David Bowie, a new David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts is being opened in the V&A East Storehouse in Stratford, set to open in 2025. The new centre will be funded by record label Warner Music Group, which still owns Bowie’s songbook.

Plans on precisely how to display the collection are still in early stages, but one certainty is that the written documents will be digitized to both archive them and make them accessible.

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