David Bowie's Art is Coming to the AGO
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David Bowie’s Art is Coming to the AGO

The Art Gallery of Ontario will be displaying items from David Bowie's personal archives this fall.

Pierrot (or "Blue Clown") costume, 1980  Designed by Natasha Korniloff for the "Ashes to Ashes" video and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album cover  Courtesy of the David Bowie Archive/Victoria & Albert Museum

Pierrot (or “Blue Clown”) costume, 1980. Designed by Natasha Korniloff for the “Ashes to Ashes” video and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album cover. Courtesy of the David Bowie Archive/Victoria & Albert Museum.

Following the success of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s exhibition of Patti Smith’s photography, “Patti Smith: Camera Solo,” (which also included two live performances by the punk pioneer and multi-genre artist), the gallery is preparing for an exhibit based on the creative output of another iconic figure from the music world: David Bowie. Running from September 25 to November 27, David Bowie Is will include over 300 items from Bowie’s personal archive, drawn from his creative and collaborative output over the last fifty years. The exhibition will reflect Bowie’s vast and varied artistic output, from costume, fashion, and set design, to sound, lighting, and video.


The exhibit was first unveiled at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. Bowie’s personal archivist, Sandy Hirskowitz, sifted through the more than 75,000 objects in Bowie’s personal collection to make the selections, many of which ended up being displayed publicly for the first time. Now, “David Bowie Is” will be making the Art Gallery of Ontario its first stop on a world tour.

The AGO will be working with audio manufacturer Sennheiser to create an “immersive 3D Audio experience,” according to a press release issued this morning. The exhibit, which will be held on the fourth and fifth floors of the gallery, will also include recreated stage lighting, set designs (including those from the Alladin Sane and Diamond Dogs tours), live performance clips, and David Mallet–directed music videos. There will also be album art, photography, and many stage costumes and other iconic fashion pieces, including Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (designed by Freddie Burretti). Set lists, sketches and doodles, concept art, diary entries, musical instruments, and other ephemera round out the collection.

With this year’s release of The Next Day, David Bowie’s first record in ten years, the beloved (though recently reclusive) musical innovator has been launched back into the public consciousness. The success of that record (which was unexpectedly announced on January 8, Bowie’s sixty-sixth birthday, and released exactly two months later) has created new interest in Bowie’s eclectic sound and avant-garde, androgynous fashion stylings. “David Bowie Is” will be an opportunity for fans—both old and new—to explore the work of a groundbreaking artist, whose influence remains powerful to this day.

Second image: Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1975-6. Film stills by David James Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Film stills © STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum.