David Bowie’s impact on modern music and art cannot be overstated. An artist often known for being a chameleon and a leader in experimentation and self expression, he is considered an icon.
It is no surprise that the hottest ticket in town is New York City’s David Bowie Is exhibit. Over 400 artifacts from David Bowie’s history were curated for David Bowie Is, featuring costumes, handwritten lyrics and art pieces organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. David Bowie Is has been traveling the globe for five years, its final stop ran from March until July 13 at the historic Brooklyn Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums in the country.
Timed tickets had to be purchased in advance and the chatter of hundreds of eager fans filled the museum’s fifth floor. Attendees were an eclectic mix of old and young, many sporting Bowie shirts and tattoos. Young volunteers wearing Bowie t-shirts did their best to manage the crowds and offered folding seats to those in need. They thanked everyone for their patience as they were running behind schedule due to the exhibit’s popularity.
Everyone was given headphones upon entry, and the bluetooth set narrated items throughout the halls. Six decades of songs and interview clips helped immerse even the most casual fan into Bowie’s world. The collection begins with Davie Jones, the teenage writer seeking an audience connection, and ends with David Bowie’s massive impact on modern artists from singers to ballet performers. Early gig posters hang on the walls and glass cases display records, journal entires and even a cocaine spoon. Life-sized mannequins present tour costumes complete with outlandish shoes and accessories.
It was fun to piece together Bowie’s wide range of influences over the years including his location,visual art, fashion, social settings, theater, sexuality and musical styles across all genres while viewing this expansive collection. There was so much to see, hear and take in while walking among fellow fans, all of whom were silent and engrossed with all things Bowie.
One room that drew a larger crowd featured a huge projection screen showing footage of the Philadelphia stop of the Diamond Dogs tour. Headsets were removed and everyone was bobbing their heads to the the music, a sea of smiling faces as an energized Bowie sang and danced before them.
Fans also gathered near the film work portion of the exhibit. A screen showing clips of The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Prestige and The Hunger played while props from Labyrinth sat nearby. Jareth The Goblin King’s boots, cane and crystal ball were on display along with a handwritten note from Jim Henson that he had sent with an early script, telling Bowie he would be great for the part.
The exhibit closes with a small section about Blackstar, Bowie’s final album, recorded secretly in New York City and released just two days before his death in 2016.
David Bowie Is offered an inside look at famous personas such as Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom, complete with costumes and early stage concepts. A ‘traveling library’ of 100 books brought on tour and taped-together song lyrics provided some insight into the mind of David Jones, a private man who’s characters and songs left a legacy of inspiration and inclusion for generations to come.