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David Bowie, 1975Courtesy RCA Records

A treasure trove of David Bowie memorabilia is coming to the V&A

The artist’s vast archive, featuring more than 80,000 items, has found a permanent (and public) home in east London

Good news, Bowie fans! The cultural icon’s vast personal archive is coming to London, where the V&A will host a publicly-available collection of more than 80,000 items, spanning over six decades, with the aim of creating a “new sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow”.

Featuring costumes, hand-written lyrics, instruments, set design, letters, artwork, and more, the archive is set to offer a biographical account of Bowie’s life and creativity. Visitors will be able to take in everything from hand-sketched costume ideas and album artwork – plus lyrics to songs such as “Heroes” and “Fame” – as well as fully-realised outfits spanning the Ziggy Stardust era, Aladdin Sane tour, and late 90s album Earthling, which saw Bowie wear a union jack coat designed in collaboration with Alexander McQueen.

Elsewhere, the spotlight will be on some of Bowie’s most famous collaborations. Instruments such as Brian Eno’s synthesiser, played on Low and Heroes, will offer a glimpse into a pioneering music career, while a collage of film stills from Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth will trace his impact on cinema. Prints, negatives, and large-format photographs from the likes of Helmut Newton and Terry O’Neill will also be on display, alongside unrealised projects that have never been revealed to the public.

Where will this unprecedented collection be held, you ask? Well, given its vast scope, you might not be surprised to hear that it will live in its own special venue, the David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts, set to open as part of east London’s V&A East Storehouse in 2025.

The V&A previously dipped into Bowie’s extensive archive for an exhibition in 2013, three years before the artist’s death, but that apparently only “scratched the surface”. “David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time,” says the museum’s director, Tristram Hunt. “The V&A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive, and to be able to open it up for the public.”

“Bowie’s radical innovations across music, theatre, film, fashion and style – from Berlin to Tokyo to London – continue to influence design and visual culture and inspire creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons.” Now that they’ve been secured by the V&A with the purpose of putting them on public display, they’ll hopefully continue to inspire creatives for generations to come.

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