I am thrilled to be seeing the David Bowie Is exhibition at ACMI this week. I wanted to, but wasn’t able to, get to London to see it at the V&A when it opened in 2013. It then toured several cities around the world, and I hoped to catch up with it somewhere, but that wasn’t possible either. Melbourne wasn’t on the original tour list so it is almost miraculous that it is now here and I am about to see it.
For serious fans, this exhibition has been a long time coming. It has been possible, perhaps inevitable, since the publication in the May/June 1993 issue of Arena magazine. The feature article on Bowie revealed that he had been deliberately archiving many artefacts from his career, including costumes, with professional standards of conservation.
The implication of this gradually sank in. There’s more to this than vanity or nostalgia. This is strategic. The idea that what may otherwise have been considered detritus could be important was already established, in the context of pop culture, from Andy Warhol’s time capsule boxes. Bowie was planning something for this material.
To the public, his emergence from years of silence in 2013 with a new single (8 January) and album (8 March) was spontaneous, but in reality the album was years in production. As was the exhibition, which opened at the V&A in London on 23 March 2013. This exhibition has taken 20 years to be realised, and I am expecting to be amazed.