I was frustrated to miss the V & A Museum ‘Bowie Is’ exhibition in London three years ago so was delighted that it has been temporarily relocated to a city to my home in Emilia-Romagna. It is on at Bologna’s MAMbo until 13th November 2016.
Of course, the death of David Bowie earlier this year casts a black star over the event but this also puts into true perspective the enormous contribution he made to the fields of music, fashion and art.
He is described as a one man revolution and for once the hyperbole is justified. His influence continues to be so huge that this brief audio-visual resumé of his career can only really scratch the surface of his achievements.
There are videos, original costumes, hand written lyrics, sketch pads and photographs. This selected history are edited highlights of a luminous career which wisely skips over low points such as his period as part of Tin Machine!
The exhibition is easy to navigate helped by the fact that the headphones are automatically tuned into the video interviews or music clips as you walk from room to room. My favourite exhibit was the costume he wore for his memorable Top of the Pops appearance performing Starman.
The focus is primarily on the evolution of Bowie’s creative impulses and it helps that he was never secretive about who and what he was borrowing or stealing from. As Picasso famously observed, “all art if theft” and Bowie was living proof of this epithet.
However, whether he was plundering the cut-up writing techniques of William S.Burroughs, the costumes of Kabuki theatre or musical elements of Krautrock, he was always able to put enough his own personality into his projects to make these ideas seem fresh and innovative.
“It was easier to be someone else” he said in an early interview yet despite the range of styles and characters he adopted, and the masks he wore, he always remained true to himself. He was desperate for fame yet was not prepared to compromise or slavishly follow trends to achieve his goal. He brought concept art into popular culture and rode the early ridicule to make the androgynous look in rock both fashionable and fascinating to both sexes.
Not everything he did worked. The clips of his film roles show his limitations as an actor and establish beyond doubt that his most successful role was in Nicolas Roeg’s ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ where he was essentially required to play himself.
The exhibition is a celebration of an alien in human form who stood out from the inanities of the real world. This exhibition makes you feel thankful that he fell on planet Earth.