A massive David Bowie archive has been donated to the V&A

It’s a big day for David Bowie fans: an enormous archive of the star’s work, life and legacy has been donated to the V&A. Containing more than 80,000 items, the collection spans six decades of the life and career of one of the most iconic Londoners ever. Bowie’s archive will go on public display for the first time in 2025 at the new David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, which is part of the V&A’s new East Storehouse. 

This is one for the proper Bowie nerds: the museum says it will give fans and researchers the opportunity to get up-close and personal with Ziggy Stardust like never before. In the collection, you’ll be able to see handwritten lyrics to songs like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Fame’, as well as letters, costumes, music videos, artwork, set designs, and some of the Starman’s beloved instruments. 

David Bowie archive
Photograph: Masayoshi Sukita / The David Bowie Archive 2012

 Iconic fashion pieces like the Ziggy Stardust two-piece suit designed by Freddie Burrettim, and the Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat that appears on the ‘Earthling’ album cover, are part of the archive. And it includes more than 70,000 photographs, prints, negatives, slides and contact sheets – some of which were taken by photographers like Terry O’Neill, Brian Duffy and Helmut Newton. 

Perhaps most exciting of all, the collection includes writing and unreleased projects never seen before in public. 

David Bowie self-portrait
Photograph: The David Bowie Archive 2012A self portrait in the same pose as the ‘Heroes’ album cover

Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, says: ‘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.’

V&A East opens 2024.

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