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V&A acquires David Bowie archive, to go public from 2025

By Rachel Douglass


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avid Bowie as The Thin White Duke, Station to Station Tour, 1976 © John Robert Rowlands. Image: V&A

The V&A has announced that it will be securing the archive of the late performer David Bowie, with it planning to make the collection available to the public from 2025.

Its launch will come as part of the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at V&A East Storehouse in Stratford, London.

Both the acquisition of the archive and the creation of the centre were made possible due to the David Bowie Estate and a 10 million pound donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group, the V&A said in a release.

Next to supporting the centre, the funding will also go towards the ongoing conservation, research and study of the collection, which encompasses over 80,000 items, spanning pieces from Bowie’s early career in the 1960s to his death in 2016.

Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour, 1973 Design by Kansai Yamamoto Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita © Sukita The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image: V&A

Items include handwritten lyrics, sheet music, photography, film, set designs, instruments and fashion, notably including garments by Kansai Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen and Freddie Burretti.

The centre adds to the new V&A East Storehouse’s offering, which the organisation said is designed around stored collections, taking visitors behind the scenes through conservation labs, working stores, reading rooms and performance spaces.

Quilted two-piece suit, 1972 Designed by Freddie Burretti for the Ziggy Stardust tour The David Bowie Archive. Image: V&A

Commenting on the acquisition, Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said: “David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time. 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.

“Our new collections centre, V&A East Storehouse, is the ideal place to put Bowie’s work in dialogue with the V&A’s collection spanning 5,000 years of art, design, and performance.”

David Bowie