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    John Rowlands: The Archer Station to Station tour Credit line: © John Robert Rowlands

Oh! You pretty things...The curious magic on display at the V&A's blockbuster show, David Bowie is

Posted by Liv Siddall,

“There’s old music, there’s new music, and then there’s David Bowie” reads a quote in the David Bowie is exhibition – it came from his record company back in the day. Keep that in mind while you work out how you’re going to get tickets to the most exciting show ever to occur at London’s V&A (in our humble opinion).

It’s so good. It’s better than good, It’s magical, exciting, informative, curious and mind-blowing all at once. This is the kind of show that wouldn’t look out of place in about 50 years as a magnificent posthumous retrospective, and that’s the crazy thing about this show; Bowie’s still alive. No, better than that. Bowie’s back! To coincide with this absolute game-changer of a exhibition, his new album has just casually knocked all the auto-tune disasters out of the way and strode into number one in the UK charts. This is a glorious week for music.

The show is a winding, trippy passage through Bowie’s life, beginning in with projections of images taken in the gritty working-class back streets of the 1960s. Through tales of the sexual revolution, poetry, album artwork and God-like pop stars, we watch David Robert Jones stick an arm out of his shell and emerge as David Bowie, ruler of pop and anti-drab saviour of the cultural world.

The exhibition is a curious affair, constantly tempting you to look through peepholes, wander in the path of projections and marvel at such trinkets as the keys to Bowie’s apartment in Berlin and, insanely, his cocaine spoon he carried around with him in the Diamond Dogs era. As you gaze at this psychedelic detritus, Bowie murmurs seductively to you through the audio guide (which is excellently done), serenading you with his unmistakably modest drawl as you look at the magnificent objects that have played a part in his life thus far.

And what a life. That’s the feeling you leave with. How is it possible that one man has done so much and affected so many? Artists, graphic designers, musicians, filmmakers, illustrators and fashion designers all fought to collaborate with or produce work for Bowie because he was just such an icon. You can watch interviews with his contemporaries and collaborators – including a brilliant chat with Jonathan Barnbrook who has designed Bowie’s new album – throughout the show, and you can also watch some of his live performances on screens so big they could be Odeon screens tipped on end. This exhibition is an aesthetic feast, a mind-boggling journey into the life of one of the most brilliant men in history that leaves you feeling contagiously electric. Ignore the queues – get there as soon as you can.

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    Photograph by Terry O’Neill. Hand colouring by David Bowie: David Bowie and William Burroughs Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images

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    Design by Brian Duffy and Celia Philo, make up by Pierre La Roche: Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane © Duffy Archive
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    David Bowie: Cut up lyrics for ‘Blackout’ from “Heroes”
    © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images

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    Design by David Bowie, film stills by David James: Photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. Film stills © STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd

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    Roy Ainsworth.: Promotional shoot for The Kon-rads Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images

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    David Bowie: Self portrait in pose also adopted for the album cover of “Heroes” © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images

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    Kansai Yamamoto: Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour. Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita
    © Sukita / The David Bowie Archive 2012

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    John Rowlands: The Archer Station to Station tour © John Robert Rowlands

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Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She also runs our London listings site This At There, and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.