"David Bowie Is," the exhibition catalog for the "David Bowie Is" retrospective that opened recently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (currently breaking museum-attendance records, and running through
Indeed, it's hard to say where to begin with this thing, because, as the exhibition's open title suggests, it's impossible to say where Bowie's headed. The book, like the show, is organized more by its themes — influences, style, sexuality — than a boorish collection of rock-star artifacts, though there are those: album covers, concept sketches from videos, mannequins wearing every conceivable Bowie costume.
And the stuff Bowie has kept — he reportedly has an archive of 75,000 pieces — is fun to stare at, the album-shoot contact sheets always telling. But the writing winding between the stuff, from music critic Jon Savage, Camille Paglia and others, lends context and picks away at Bowie with such insight — Paglia writes of Bowie's "genius for using the camera as others use a paintbrush or chisel, not from behind the camera but before it" — that it's a rare hagiography with soul. It's also, without a plane ticket, the closest you're going to get to this exhibition for some time. It's expected to tour, but that, like the man, remains a mystery.
Christopher Borrelli is a
"David Bowie Is"