Written by: Adina Vega
Edited by Gabrielle S. Bates and Jenny Roach
Bowie performing as The Thin White Duke on the Station to Station tour in 1976.
Innovative. Revolutionary. Brave. Bowie’s life was art, and his music has influenced artists, film, fashion, and theater for the past 50 years. He was a renegade, artistic pioneer, and one of the most avant-garde musicians of our time. While some adored him, others found him controversial and misunderstood.
David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in 1947 in London, England. He died on January 10, 2016, at 69, two days after his final album, Blackstar, was released. The world then discovered that the creator of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke had secretly been battling cancer.
Announced February 2023, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) acquired Bowie’s 80,000-item archive dedicated to the iconic musician. The museum received a $12 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group to store and display at the new east London location.
The David Bowie Center for the Study of Performing Arts is under construction in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. They will reveal Bowie’s creative methods, chameleon personae, and musical genre hopping.
The collection will include his instruments, costumes, handwritten lyrics, awards, album art, set designs, and more, as well as footage and photography documenting Bowie’s life. The archives provide a deeper peek into his thoughts through personal writings and unfinished projects. One such project includes cut-up scraps of paper Bowie used to write songs.
David Bowie’s cut-up lyrics for “Blackout” from Heroes in 1977.
The archive will reveal Bowie’s creative processes while he created the greatest folk-rock, glam, soul, and electronica music. His live and recorded music, as well as fashion and film, will be available for viewing. Bowie’s prolific art collections–a pastime he kept largely hidden from the public view–will also be on display.
Fans will be able to observe Bowie’s handwritten lyrics for legendary songs like “Fame,” “Heroes,” and “Ashes to Ashes.” His costumes for his alter ego– Ziggy Stardust–created by fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Freddie Burretti, will also be on display.
Bowie’s music carried audiences on expressive journeys that helped build enduring and influential connections. With the formation of his archival collection, new and old fans can witness his genius. Click here for more information on the archives opening in 2025.
David Bowie wearing a piece designed by Kansai Yamamoto on the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973.