Back in early March this year, I blogged about how lucky I was to be able to attend the Preview Day of the V&A’s “David Bowie Is” exhibition. I was completely blown away by the numerous exhibits including over 60 of Bowie’s famous costumes and handwritten lyrics from songs which have meant a lot to me in my life. Unfortunately, the exhibition was extremely well attended and despite my best efforts, there were some parts of it that I was unable to view due to the sheer volume of people such as Bowie’s film work, which was showing in a small side room which accommodated 12 people at best, when full.
It’s been a long hot Summer and much has happened since March (not least my mother-in-law being in hospital with serious medical issues since 18th May until now). It was always my intention to view the exhibition again before it ends this Sunday. I’d also had hopes for attending the Club to Catwalk exhibit at the same time, making a day of it at the V&A.
The “David Bowie Is” exhibition ends this Sunday, and as I’m away in Amsterdam for a friend’s 50th birthday celebrations, my chances of viewing the exhibition one more time were dwindling fast. I resigned myself to the fact that I bought the book and worn the t-shirt, and was lucky enough to see the exhibition at least once. It’s been *that* popular that some people were unable to view it at all. So I counted my blessings and put it to the back of my mind.
Then, as fate would have it my friend Jonathan, who’s the Mayor of Camden had managed to organise for 20 people to attend the exhibition on Wednesday morning this week, as a private view. I of course jumped at the opportunity, paid my contribution to his charity, the Amy Winehouse Foundation and thanked my lucky stars! I mentioned to Jonathan that I fancied seeing the Club to Catwalk exhibit too, and he kindly offered to allow me entry to this as his guest, as he’s a V&A member. Double bubble!
So, early on Wednesday morning I got up and played the role of commuter from Epping station to make my way to South Kensington to arrive at 8.50am prompt. I actually arrived at South Ken at 8.15, so took the opportunity to grab some breakfast. The day was sunny and the popular London borough was bustling already. I consumed by breakfast and took the short walk to the main entrance of the V&A which was to be our meeting point.
Viewing the exhibition for a second time was a completely different experience. I was able to view the parts I had missed completely last time, but found that there were exhibits that had totally passed me by the first time round, such as the pile of oranges near the entrance, which was reminiscent of an early art performance piece Bowie was involved in, in the 1960’s.
The “Starman” exhibit still ran shivers down my spine, especially at the part when he proclaims, “I had to phone someone so I picked on you-ooooo”. I was able to view the handwritten lyric sheets and see the short video about Bowie’s invention “the Verbisizer” which is a method he also uses to construct lyrics and provoke ideas for song writing, alongside his infamous “cut and paste” technique.
I specifically looked out for the “We Can Be Heroes” book by Blitz photographer Graham Smith, in which I am mentioned (along with my great friend, Samantha Reynolds) but alas I couldn’t locate it again for the second time round. If anyone actually knows where it is in the exhibition, I’d be very grateful if you could let me know!
I was also able to enjoy the “actor Bowie” section in its fullness, and view the “Berlin” section with greater appreciation than I’d been able to the first time around. I’d missed the Bowie art back in May, or perhaps hadn’t appreciated it was by him, as there was so much to take in! Thankfully this time I could immerse myself in it all!
Once the viewing was complete (1.5 hours although it passed very quickly!) we went to the gift shop; I bought a couple of small Bowie-related items (having already bought numerous souvenirs first time round!) and when chatting to the V&A staff found that some people had travelled literally halfway across the world to see the exhibition, and one person had viewed it 35 times!
I then went for a very much-needed cup of tea, with Jonathan and Gill. We had a good long chat and just after midday, Gill had to leave to go to work, so Jonathan and I made our way to the “Club to Catwalk” exhibition, which was based on costumes from clubbing days in the 1980’s.
I did my growing up in that decade and it is very close to my heart. In 1980 I was just turning 13 years old and already into music in a very big way. Fashion and Clubbing were soon to follow in my life in the mid 1980’s, mostly around the alternative scene in Manchester so I was keen to take a trip down Memory Lane and be reminded of my formative years. Once we were in the exhibition, Jonathan left as he had a meeting to attend, so I perused the costumes alone. There was a video playing of a fashion show from St Martin’s College in 1986. There were a handful of people watching this, and when Kate Bush came on as the background music, the woman stood next to me, turned to me and proudly announced that she was the model on the screen! We chatted briefly about how this had come about; she was obviously very proud to see herself on the screen some 27 years later!
I went upstairs to view the Goth/New Romantic section which appealed to me more than the Kathryn Hamnett slogan t shirts and knitted garments located downstairs. I managed to take a few photos with my iPhone until I was annoyingly asked to refrain from doing so. The costumes upstairs were definitely more my kind of thing than the others, so I was quite miffed when the aforementioned security guard then watched me like a hawk to ensure I complied with his request. Damn! 😉
I left the small exhibit and looked in the gift shop and bought a book “80s Fashion” as a souvenir. I then left the V&A to make my way to Chinatown where I met my hubby and son and went for a very nice Chinese lunch before going home, shattered by sated.
All in all, it had been a great day!