The David Bowie Exhibition comes to Town
Martin Gropius Bau Berlin 2 years ahead of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Today’s text it about the David Bowie exhibition that started in London and was shown in Berlin this year, an interview with Bowie from 2000 and a photo story of my visit of the exhibition. Since Bowie is British we start with English today, the German version will follow after that.
The international exhibition David Bowie was shown in Berlin’s Martin Gropius Bau from May 20 to August 24, 2014. It “retraced the carriere of this exceptional artist, investigated his creative process as a music performer and cultural icon and demonstrated his multifaceted stylistic changes and reinventions. The progressive spirit of Bowie is reflected by the comprehensive audio-visual orchestration of the exhibition, that merges sound and vision to a very special experience“. (a quote from the website of the David Bowie exhibition).
Among other things David Bowie is a collector and diligent chronicler, therefore 60 of his original stage costumes were shown as well as pages from his diaries, exchanges of letters (e.g. with Marlene Dietrich), posters, stage and costume scetches, paintings and and and more more more.
The exhibition was first curated and shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, („The world’s greatest museum of art and design“), from March 23 until August 11, 2013.
„The V&A was given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie. David Bowie is featured more than 300 objects that include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie’s own instruments.“ (a quote from the website of the David Bowie is-exhibition)
The Berlin version, second station of this “touring exhibition“, is even bigger (and greater!) than the premiere in London, because addition space had been added for exhibits of Bowie’s time in Berlin 1976 until 1978. There he produced his three albums LOW, HEROES and LODGER, he played Paul, the lead in David Hemming’s debut as a director: JUST A GIGOLO, a film that was to be the last of Marlene Dietrich’s films. Incidentally, I met Ingrid Zoré, the costume designer of that film last year, but unfortunately she did not give me Bowie’s phone number.
In this room they played the German version of HEROES, always a treat to hear.
Why the London exhibition did not include the Berlin exhibits is something of a mystery. Last year on January 8, Bowie’s 66th birthday, the song WHERE ARE WE NOW was published on the official website, Bowie’s first new song in 10 years, and what is this song and the video by Tony Oursler about? Well, among other things it is about Berlin.
But of course I don’t want to praise the Berlin exhibition onesidedly, so let’s criticize one thing: No, you cannot talk of barrier-free access, when there is a lift for people in wheelchairs but at the same time the labels for the exhibits are printed in light grey on a darker grey background, in at most half-lit rooms.
David Bowie is a very versatile artist, as musician, composer, writer, actor, mime, painter, stage and costume designer, as well as being a humorous, creative, philosophical, political anti-genderstereotypical person. I can highly recommend to everyone that has not been able to see the exhibition visiting the website of the exhibition, buying the detailed catalogue as well as of course all records and videos by and with David Bowie.
Before sharing my photographic account of my visit to the exhibition I would like to refer to two older interviews with David Bowie. One was performed by Bowie’s second wife Iman for the magazine Bust in the autumn of 2000 (here is a transcript). Among other things it deals with Bowie’s attitude towards feminism, gender stereotype, the song BOYS KEEP SWINGING which includes the ironic line „Nothing stands in your way When you’re a boy„, machismo and relationships.
Bowie’s answer to the question “What does the word ‚feminism‘ mean to you?“ was: „In general, I suppose, I find it intensely offensive to see women treated as chattel or appendages. I cannot think of a situation where a woman could not do an equal if not better job than a man. Possibly, a situation requiring only brute strength may be the exception, but here again, a woman would be smart enough to organize the right person for the job. In that singular case, probably a man.“
The second interview was done backstage in 2006, when David Bowie was guest on Ricky Gervais’ sitcom EXTRAS: here is the video (1:45 min).
I have been a Bowie fan for decades (and own a number of his records still in the original vinyl versions), also some years ago I moved to Berlin and now live in the vicinity of the Martin Gropius Bau, so there was never any doubt that I would visit the exhibition right away. After an extended phase of excited anticipation I finally went to see it last Thursday, 4 days before the end of ist 3 months run: