This past weekend I went to see David Bowie Is on its last day atthe Philharmonie de Paris. Welcoming over 1 million visitors during its 3 month run, the exhibition was extremely popular until the very end, forcing the museum to extend its opening hours during the last week. The exhibition’s curators (V&A’s Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh) were allowed full access to the David Bowie Archive, resulting in an impressive amount of material being displayed, including videos, stage costumes, album covers, stage sets, photographs and Bowie’s music.
The exhibition charts Bowie’s early attempts at singing and song-writing during the Swinging Sixties, his breakout success as the androgynous alien singing Starman on Top of the Pops, his conquest of America and the years off in Berlin and Paris before stepping back into the spotlight. Making the whole experience even more unforgettable, each visitor is provided with a sensory audio guide system (Sennheiser), meaning as you move from section to section you have both an audio and visual experience of David Bowie.
I found the exhibition to be a fun way of learning more about the multi-faceted Bowie. For example I had no idea he wanted to make a musical based on George Orwell's 1984. After being denied the rights Bowie went on to produce the ground-breaking album and stage show Diamond Dogs, which tells the story of violent and anarchic teenagers wreaking havoc in a post-apocalyptic city. He collaborated with a then unknown Alexander McQueen, asking the young art student to create the costumes for his 1996-1997 music tours. He studied acting and is also an accomplished artist. Is there anything David Bowie can't do?
For me personally, Bowie is both the king of innovation and master of reinvention, transitioning effortlessly across various alter-egos (Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke) through several decades of musical genres. As well as proving his musical talent time and time again, Bowie has always been eager to seek out intellectual depth and collaborate with like-minded creative visionaries, always thrilling his fans with outlandish and energetic performances whilst managing to maintain his artistic credibility. I grew up listening to Bowie records at home, was terrified by him as the Goblin King in Jim Henson's 1986 film Labryinth, laughed my socks off at his appearance in BBC Extras and would most definitely include him in the list of famous people I'd like to have over for dinner.
*Photos kindly provided by La Philharmonie de Paris.