“David Bowie is”: What People Are Saying About the Blockbuster Retrospective

Granted unprecedented access to David Bowie’s personal archive (“It turned out that Mr. Bowie is one of those people who have never thrown anything away”), Victoria & Albert curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh have mounted an impressive, encompassing exhibition tracing Bowie’s artistry and influence. After its blockbuster run in London, the show travels to Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, bringing the hype along with it. Read some of our favorite accounts of the exhibition, below, and then be sure to explore it on Artsy!

“Exhibition, in fact, is too modest a word to describe what’s happening the next two months on the top two floors of the AGO’s contemporary art centre. Fresh from its record-setting run at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, David Bowie Is is nothing less than an act of exaltation. And the 300 artifacts on view, culled largely from Bowie’s own immense archives … are nothing less than articles of faith.” The Globe and Mail

“The first things you see are 500 oranges, being painstakingly arranged into a square Gilbert & George floor display by workers in blue latex gloves. The first thing you hear, on your radio headset, is a John Cage piano piece. The first thing you think is: um, have I walked into the wrong room?” The Quietus

“Artists and filmmakers have often created interesting results by refining popular culture into high art. Bowie did the opposite: he would, as he once explained in an interview, plunder high art and take it down to the street; that was his brand of rock-and-roll theater.” New York Review of Books

“Artist Jeremy Deller compares Warhol’s influence on the 1960s to Bowie’s influence on the 1970s. ‘They both ruled the decade,’ Deller claims. ‘They defined it and they changed it.’ However, the artist that Bowie mirrors the most may be another of his favorites, Pablo Picasso. Like Picasso, the single constant in Bowie’s career has been being on the cutting edge of change.” Big Think

“The show argues that Bowie, with his ever growing slate of alter-egos, was a groundbreaking self-curated construct, primed and ready for polarized society in the late 1960s in the midst of a social revolution. With his wild costumes and makeup, he could make himself both a lightning rod for criticism and an icon for non-conformity, all of which amounted to his proper goal: a surfeit of media coverage and an unstoppable, burgeoning fame.”The Star

“He is a product of Surrealism, of Dada, of the Modernist arts. He is body-based, always completely in the role he is playing. His tremendous physical virtuosity, his understanding of costume and how it is an imaginative projection of your body, is part of the biggest thing about him: he is so deeply emotional. I’m so happy with the return of David Bowie.” Camille Paglia in the New York Times

“The exhibition makes you feel you have entered the creative mind of an astonishing cultural icon, a figure whose influence and significance far exceeds his notional role as rock god.” The Telegraph

Explore “David Bowie is” on Artsy.

Share article