CULTURE & ARTS

David Bowie Exhibition Details How An Artist Became An Icon

There’s never been an artist quite like David Bowie, so it’s only fitting that a major exhibition chronicling the legend’s work is as diverse, expansive and exciting as his career over the past half century.

David Bowie Is,” opening Tuesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, contains more than 300 artifacts selected from an incredible 75,000 items Bowie had archived over the years. With a location-based headset, viewers can hear corresponding interviews, commentary and -- of course -- music as they move through the show, thanks to technology provided by exhibit sponsor Sennheiser.

Along with the immersive audio, the exhibit packs in more than 50 of Bowie’s costumes from personas like Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Thin White Duke, multiple hand-drawn storyboards for his stage shows and music videos, and contextual media like World War II news clippings, the famous 1972 “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth from space, and posters from the film “A Clockwork Orange,” all of which inspired Bowie’s creative process.

“The show is so much about process... it’s about how you make things,” MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling said during a Friday preview of the exhibition. “You can consistently see how [Bowie] was reinventing himself over and over.”

The MCA’s show is the only U.S. stop on the exhibition’s international tour. Below, a preview of the show:

  • Artifacts from David Bowie's early years on display, including a replica of the plastic Grafton alto saxophone his mother gav
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Artifacts from David Bowie's early years on display, including a replica of the plastic Grafton alto saxophone his mother gave him for Christmas in 1961. Geoffrey Marsh, co-curator of "David Bowie Is" at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, said the actual saxophone was the only item they requested from Bowie's massive archive that they were not given, due to its fragility.
  • More early artifacts -- from before Bowie became Bowie -- include a pencil sketch Bowie did of his mother (right) and an earl
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    More early artifacts -- from before Bowie became Bowie -- include a pencil sketch Bowie did of his mother (right) and an early school photo (center).
  • Neon sign in the MCA Chicago's fourth floor, introducing "David Bowie Is..."
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    Neon sign in the MCA Chicago's fourth floor, introducing "David Bowie Is..."
  • Bowie paid close attention to his on-stage wardrobe from the very start of his musical career, playing in bands including the
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Bowie paid close attention to his on-stage wardrobe from the very start of his musical career, playing in bands including the Kon-rads (which he formed at the age of 15 in 1962), the King Bees and the Riot Squad.
  • A photo of a young Bowie (center) accompanies some of the artist's earliest releases as Bowie, after he changed his name to d
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    A photo of a young Bowie (center) accompanies some of the artist's earliest releases as Bowie, after he changed his name to distinguish himself from the Monkees' Davy Jones in 1965. At right, his self-titled debut album, released in 1967.
  • Bowie's meeting of dancer and mime artist Lindsey Kemp in 1967 proved instrumental for his career's theatrical, often charact
    YouTube
    Bowie's meeting of dancer and mime artist Lindsey Kemp in 1967 proved instrumental for his career's theatrical, often character-driven trajectory. He took classes from Kemp and created mime performance pieces, including "The Mask," which is featured in the exhibition.
  • Bowie's first commercial hit, "Space Oddity," was released in 1969. Bowie was reportedly inspired by the feelings of isolatio
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Bowie's first commercial hit, "Space Oddity," was released in 1969. Bowie was reportedly inspired by the feelings of isolation in the Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey."
  • A "Hunky Dory" promotion photo from 1971 where Bowie was styled to look like the early 20th century British occultist, poet a
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    A "Hunky Dory" promotion photo from 1971 where Bowie was styled to look like the early 20th century British occultist, poet and painter Aleister Crowley.
  • Bowie's performance of "Starman" on BBC One's Top of the Pops  in 1972 cemented his new Ziggy Stardust persona. The iconic ju
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Bowie's performance of "Starman" on BBC One's Top of the Pops in 1972 cemented his new Ziggy Stardust persona. The iconic jumpsuit, designed by Freddie Burretti, he wore for that performance is on display. Another Kubrick film, "A Clockwork Orange," inspired this look.
  • The green and white suit Bowie wore on the cover of "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" (which was later tinted turquoise f
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    The green and white suit Bowie wore on the cover of "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" (which was later tinted turquoise for the cover art).
  • A promotional poster showing a cartoon Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    A promotional poster showing a cartoon Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.
  • The slender blue suit worn for Bowie's "Life on Mars?" 1972 video. Bowie reportedly had a 26-inch waist at the time.
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    The slender blue suit worn for Bowie's "Life on Mars?" 1972 video. Bowie reportedly had a 26-inch waist at the time.
  • Bowie wore his famous leotard-style "Woodland Creatures" garment for a show at London's Rainbow Theatre in 1972.
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    Bowie wore his famous leotard-style "Woodland Creatures" garment for a show at London's Rainbow Theatre in 1972.
  • Handwritten lyrics to "Ziggy Stardust" in 1972.
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    Handwritten lyrics to "Ziggy Stardust" in 1972.
  • After Ziggy came the "Aladdin Sane" album (1973) and tour. This cloak covered in kanji characters was worn on the tour.
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    After Ziggy came the "Aladdin Sane" album (1973) and tour. This cloak covered in kanji characters was worn on the tour.
  • "Tokyo Pop" vinyl bodysuit from 1973 that Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto created for Bowie.
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    "Tokyo Pop" vinyl bodysuit from 1973 that Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto created for Bowie.
  • A costume, designed by Kensai Yamamoto, from Bowie's Aladdin Sane era.
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    A costume, designed by Kensai Yamamoto, from Bowie's Aladdin Sane era.
  • A cobweb costume designed by Natasha Korniloff that Bowie wore for a television appearance in 1973. The show's producers repo
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    A cobweb costume designed by Natasha Korniloff that Bowie wore for a television appearance in 1973. The show's producers reportedly ordered a third fake hand over Bowie's crotch be removed from the design prior to the show's airing.
  • Bowie's notes for his makeup during the "Diamond Dogs" era.
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    Bowie's notes for his makeup during the "Diamond Dogs" era.
  • Handwritten lyrics to "Rebel Rebel," the first single off "Diamond Dogs."
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Handwritten lyrics to "Rebel Rebel," the first single off "Diamond Dogs."
  • After Bowie moved to the U.S. in 1974, living for a time in New York City, came "Diamond Dogs," an album inspired by George O
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    After Bowie moved to the U.S. in 1974, living for a time in New York City, came "Diamond Dogs," an album inspired by George Orwell's "1984" and ideas of a musical based in a post-apocalyptic city. A set model for the "Diamond Dogs" tour.
  • Bowie's "black-and-white" era --corresponding with the release of the "Station to Station" album (1976) -- is depicted with a
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Bowie's "black-and-white" era --corresponding with the release of the "Station to Station" album (1976) -- is depicted with a range of variations on the black and white suit.
  • In 1976, Bowie starred in his first feature film, "The Man Who Fell to Earth." At right, a manipulated film still.
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    In 1976, Bowie starred in his first feature film, "The Man Who Fell to Earth." At right, a manipulated film still.
  • The clown costume from Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes."
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    The clown costume from Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes."
  • Bowie created these paintings after he moved to West Berlin in the late '70s.
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Bowie created these paintings after he moved to West Berlin in the late '70s.
  • At left, handwritten lyrics to "Fashion," the second single off 1980's "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)."
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    At left, handwritten lyrics to "Fashion," the second single off 1980's "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)."
  • Bowie starred in "The Elephant Man" in Chicago and later on Broadway in 1980.
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Bowie starred in "The Elephant Man" in Chicago and later on Broadway in 1980.
  • In 1986, Bowie's film work continued with another high-profile role as Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson's "Labyrinth." He
    Kim Bellware/The Huffington Post
    In 1986, Bowie's film work continued with another high-profile role as Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson's "Labyrinth." Here is the crystal ball that belonged to Jareth.
  • Alexander McQueen's Union Jack coat creation for Bowie (right). The coat was worn on the cover of Bowie's 1997 "Earthlings" a
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    Alexander McQueen's Union Jack coat creation for Bowie (right). The coat was worn on the cover of Bowie's 1997 "Earthlings" album.
  • The capstone of the show is the final room, which features an immersive array of live Bowie performances spanning 1973 to 200
    Joseph Erbentraut/The Huffington Post
    The capstone of the show is the final room, which features an immersive array of live Bowie performances spanning 1973 to 2004, and an impressive display of more of the artist's iconic fashions.

"David Bowie Is" will be on view at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art from September 23, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

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BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
More From The MCA's "David Bowie Is"
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