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David Bowie memorabilia archive of 80,000 items to go on display in London

Costumes, notebooks, unrealised projects, film stills and more will be housed at a new cultural hub

David Bowie memorabilia archive of 80,000 items to go on display in London

A huge archive of David Bowie memorabilia has been donated to the V&A, spanning all six decades of his career. The collection will go on permanent display in East London. 

Set to house over 80,000 individual items, the David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts will open in 2025. Described by V&A Director, Dr. Tristan Hunt, as a "new sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow", much of the content has never been shown publicly before. The institution was chosen after the success of its 2013 exhibition, David Bowie Is..., which toured 12 museums and was attended by 2million people globally. 

Once open, fans will be able to examine Bowie's personal notebooks, explore ideas for unrealised projects, look at early costume sketches, and read handwritten lyrics that went on to make hit singles. A range of iconic outfits will be included, from Bowie's own Ziggy Stardust creations, to the Union Jack coat he designed with Alexander McQueen for the cover of 1997 album, 'Earthling', and wares by Kansai Yamamoto used on the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour.

Elsewhere, thousands of photographs, negative prints, and other images will feature. Some shots are credited to world famous photographers like Terry O'Neill and Helmut Newton. Meanwhile, a set of stills taken from the Nicolas Roeg film, The Man Who Fell To Earth, will be exhibited as a collage. Instruments will also factor, such as Brian Eno's synthesiser, used on the 'Heroes' and 'Low' LPs, and a stylophone gifted by the late-Mark Bolan in the late-1960s. 

Funded by Bowie's estate and £10million donated by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group, the archive will form part of the new V&A East Storehouse facility. Located at Stratford's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the address will eventually house 250,000 items, 350,000 books, and 1,000 archives linked to key cultural figures and organisations. Academy Award-winning British actress Vivien Leigh, Glastonbury festival and the Akram Khan Dance Company are confirmed so far. 

“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," Dr. Hunt said in a press release. "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." 

"In acquiring his archive for posterity, the V&A will now be able to offer access to David Bowie’s history – and the portal it represents – not only to practicing artists from all fields, but to every last one of us, and for the foreseeable future. This is a truly great piece of news, which deserves the sincerest gratitude and congratulations to all those involved who have made it possible," added Tilda Swinton, one of Bowie's close friends and collaborators.

Bowie passed away in 2016 after a long and private battle with liver cancer, days after his 69th birthday and release of his final album, 'Blackstar'. With an estimated 140 million album sales, he ranks among the most successful music artists of the 20th Century. Two years after his death, a copy of his first ever demo track was found in a bread basket at the home of David Hadfield, the drummer and manager of his first band, The Konrads. It was recorded in 1963.