February 23, 2013


A major retrospective of David Bowie begins next month at the Victoria and Albert Museum. If your impressions of him are limited to "chameleon" or Let's Dance pop star, the exhibit will remind folks that Bowie's fame is built on an extraordinary voice, gifted songwriting, and lifelong passion for art, music, theater, fashion, and the avant-garde. He started as Davy Jones, a young Mod in the early 1960s, who covered American blues with his bands The Konrads, The King Bees, The Riot Squad, and The Lower Third.

With the success of The Monkees' Davy Jones, he changed his stage name to Bowie, and became fascinated with the cut-up writing technique of William Burroughs and with the art/music world of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. As he developed as an artist, Bowie's interests and talents established him as a true renaissance man in the pop world. He is forever breaking ground with cutting-edge fashion and stage design, producing legitimate work as a visual artist, bringing theatrical elements to stage and screen, involving himself with art publications and galleries, and recording innovative records. The V&A exhibit will celebrate all of these aspects of Bowie's output. A recent image of the artist (below) sitting under his portrait with William S. Burroughs.

A beautiful book called David Bowie Is has been published by Abrams to accompany the show (below). A limited-edition signed by Bowie is available through the museum. Hardcover and softcover editions are available at the V&A, as well as through booksellers everywhere. Amazon currently has them at a discount pre-order price. About the book from Abrams: David Bowie Is is the first book that grants access to the internationally acclaimed artist and performer’s personal archive of costumes, ephemera, original design artwork, and more, bringing it together to present a completely new perspective on his creative work and collaborations. It traces Bowie’s career from its beginnings in London, through the breakthroughs of Space Oddity and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and on to his enormous impact on 20th-century avant-garde music and art. Essays by V&A curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh on Bowie’s London, image, and influence on the fashion world are complemented by Christopher Frayling, Mark Kermode, and Philip Hoare on film; Howard Goodall on musicology; Camille Paglia on gender and decadence; and Jon Savage on Bowie’s relationship with William Burroughs and Bowie’s fans. The more than 300 color illustrations include personal and performance photographs, album covers, performance costumes, original lyric sheets, and much more.

If you are interested in other cool Bowie items, the V&A gift shop is offering things like limited-edition prints, exhibit poster, cards, shirts, accessories, and more. The V&A exhibit runs from March 23rd to August 11th. In addition, Snap Galleries will be holding an exhibit of Bowie photographs by Masayoshi Sukita from March 23rd to April 30th. The show will capture their long collaboration with images from 1972 to 2002. More info here.

David Bowie recently announced that he has been secretly recording a new album called The Next Day, which will also be released next month. In addition to vinyl, cd and download formats, there is a limited-edition single coming out for Record Store day. The first song released, Where Are We Now, is a contemporary reflection on Berlin. Bowie recorded in the city during the 1970s with Brian Eno and Iggy pop. More info at Bowie's website here. Spy Vibers might also be interested in checking out this article in The Guardian and the limited-edition Speed of Life by Photographer Sukita for Genesis Publications. 

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Check Spy Vibe for recent posts about our discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, my review of SKYFALL, tributes to Donald Richie and Tony Sheridan, the Les Vampires serial on Blu-ray, Lucy Fleming, The Beatles first record session, Ian Fleming's desert island interview, new Ian Fleming book designs, FantomasSpy SmasherBarbarella tv show, British spy comics, Piper Gates retro designs, Cinema Retro, and more. 

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