Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Bowie puts on a show

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Animators behind Danny Boyle's Olympic Games Opening Ceremony to create life-size projection of singer

The animators behind Danny Boyle’s Olympic Games Opening Ceremony will create a life-size projection of David Bowie when the first museum retrospective devoted to music’s greatest chameleon opens next year.

Bowie himself is unlikely to attend the exhibition staged at the V&A. The star, 65, took to Facebook last week to deny that he was involved in the show as a “co-curator”.

But Bowie has given the Victoria And Albert Museum full access to his archive of 60,000 objects, which are stored in a facility in New York.

More than 300 objects have been selected for the exhibition, which opens next March, including the famous Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit which Bowie wore to perform Starman on Top of the Pops in 1972, an appearance which rocketed the singer to stardom and inspired a generation of musicians.

The 60 items of stage-wear include Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for his 1997 Earthling album cover.

The show will also feature Bowie’s own instruments, storyboards for a proposed musical of George Orwell’s 1984, handwritten lyrics and word collages, diary entries and album artwork.

Sources close to Bowie said the artist, who has made few public appearances since a heart scare in 2004, was supportive of the show but remained uneasy about attempts to catalogue his life and career.

Victoria Broackes, co-curator of the exhibition, said: “This is very much the V&A’s take on David Bowie not Bowie’s own. He is the ideal subject for an exhibition because he takes high art down to street level. This will be a serious exhibition about design.”

The exhibition examines Bowie’s rapacious absorption of influences from German expressionism, Brechtian theatre and Japanese Kabuki performance throughout his musical re-inventions. But it will not be uncritical and poses the question how much of his art is actually plagiarism.

The V&A will be turned into an “immersive audio-visual space” presenting dramatic projections of Bowie’s most ambitious videos.  59 Productions, the company which produced animation and design for the Olympic Opening Ceremony will create Bowie “projections”. Co-curator Geoffrey Marsh said the visual presentation would “unsettle and intrigue visitors.”

An academic symposium will accompany the exhibition. Marsh said its subject was worthy of such highbrow scrutiny. “Bowie has played a crucial role in the shaping of modern society because of his focus on personal self-expression,” he said. “He might not have intended to do this ... but help change the world he did and the ripples of those changes continue to move outwards around the globe today.”

The exhibition, called David Bowie Is, in order to “place Bowie firmly in the present tense,” will be sent on an international tour when it closes next July. Ms Broackes said she had not met Bowie whilst researching the archive, as he had become something of a “recluse”.

Visitors will be able to see the set model for the Diamond Dogs tour and the contact sheet from the Aladdin Sane (1973) album cover shoot, which featured Bowie with a “lightning flash” design on his face and which has been referenced by celebrities from Lady Gaga to Kate Moss.

The show will feature excerpts from the film The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) and music videos Boys Keep Swinging (1979) and chart-topper Let's Dance (1983) as well as recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top Of The Pops in 1973.

The Ziggy Stardust outfit, designed by Bowie with Freddie Burretti, took inspiration from the “droogs” street gang in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.

David Bowie Is takes place at the V&A from March 23 –July 28 2013. Tickets £14

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