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V&A secure David Bowie’s archive for the nation: Over 80,000 items spanning six decades of the cultural icon’s career to be made available for the first time in 2025!

February 23rd, 2023 | by Nick

An extensive archive of David Bowie’s life, work and legacy will go on display to the public for the first time in 2025, it has been announced.

Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the exhibition will include more than 80,000 items that span six decades of the cultural icon’s career.

They will be made available to the public through the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts, which will open in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

It will allow fans and researchers alike to get up close and gain new insights into Bowie’s creative process like never before, the V&A said.

The collection will feature handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, album artwork and awards.

It will also include instruments owned by the world-famous musician, as well as writings and unrealised projects never before seen in public.

Highlights include stage costumes such as Bowie’s breakthrough Ziggy Stardust ensembles, designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972, Kansai Yamamoto’s creations for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973, and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the 1997 Earthling album cover.

The archive also includes over 70,000 photographs, prints, negatives, slides and contact sheets taken by some of the 20th century’s leading photographers from Terry O’Neill to Brian Duffy and Helmut Newton.

It’s acquisition by the V&A and the creation of the centre was made possible thanks to the David Bowie Estate and £10 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.

Dr 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”.

“My deepest thanks go to the David Bowie Estate, Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group for helping make this a reality and for providing a new sourcebook for the Bowie’s of tomorrow.”

A spokesperson from the David Bowie Estate, added: “With David’s life’s work becoming part of the UK’s national collections, he takes his rightful place amongst many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses”.

“The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performance – and the behind the scenes access that V&A East Storehouse offers – will mean David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that haven’t been possible before”

“We’re so pleased to be working closely with the V&A to continue to commemorate David’s enduring cultural influence.”

**Look out for our exclusive interview with curator of the exhibition, the V&A’s Kate Bailey, coming soon**

Photo credits: Sukita, V&A, Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive.

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