David Bowie is… Dazzling at the AGO

Photo by Brian Duffy

David Bowie is a lot of things – a groundbreaking rock icon, a media manipulator, a provocateur, an alter ego – but one thing he is not, is predictable.

Exhibit A: the Art Gallery of Ontario’s latest coup, David Bowie is, fresh from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum – it’s less an art gallery installation and more a dazzling stroll through the creative mind of one of pop culture’s most influential idols.

David Bowie is isn’t, in fact, a linear timeline of the artist’s life, nor is it a cluster of old costumes hung on hooks for crowds to file past. Instead, it’s a multimedia examination – via images, music, artifacts and fashion – of how a regular boy born in post-war Brixton, London, evolved into David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust/The Thin White Duke/Aladdin Sane.

Spread out across two floors and multiple rooms, you’ll find relics of Bowie’s childhood (from baby photos to a train set to a British ration book), posters, albums, hand-written lyrics and music, books, photos, and, of course, the clothes – Freddie Burretti’s renowned Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, Kansai Yamamoto’s black and white Aladdin Sane bodysuit, and Alexander McQueen’s Union Jack coat among the pack.

But beyond the collection, it’s the presentation: sprawling layouts, floor to ceiling video walls, props hanging from the ceiling, the brilliant styling, the moods, the music, the interaction, not to mention the audio headset that guides you through the various rooms, which features dialogue with Bowie himself.

Overall, it’s exactly what you’d hope for from an exhibit bearing Bowie’s name – a spectacle that turns your conception of a rock star-themed exhibition on its head.

It’s no surprise that David Bowie is raked in crowds, and cash, when it opened in London. It’s no surprise that more media showed up for the preview this morning than I can remember at any other recent AGO launch. Attracting crowds, money, and admiration – perhaps the only predictable thing Bowie’s ever done.

David Bowie is runs from September 25-November 27 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Click here for info on tickets, hours, and related gallery events.