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A Virtual David Bowie Exhibition is Coming to Your Phone

David Bowie - Saxophone Session, London 1973. © Mick Rock

If you missed the V&A Museum’s much-admired 2013 David Bowie exhibition, David Bowie is in physical reality, then don’t worry, because you can now catch it in virtual reality. Because the show, which has been on an international tour for the last 6 years, is coming to your smartphone.

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) along with the David Bowie Archive, NY product studio Planeta and the V&A, are going to release a digital version of the exhibition as a virtual reality and augmented reality phone experience.

David Bowie performing to an audience of twenty at the Beckenham Arts Lab, UK at the start of his career in 1969. © Ray Stevenson

According to the press release, “The digital experience, a first of its kind, will deliver an astonishing, but deftly connected sequence of audio-visual spaces through which the work and artifacts of Bowie’s life can be experienced. 3D scans will preserve and present his fabulous costumes and treasured objects in meticulous detail. The experience may even allow a spectator to virtually step into one of Bowie’s outfits and see themselves in it.”

It also notes that, “Both the visual richness of this show and the visionary nature of Bowie and his art, makes this a particularly ideal candidate for a VR/AR adaptation.” continuing that it will be a “new experience of David Bowie is, one that enhances this iconic show with elements that only VR and AR can provide, yet remains firmly grounded in the work of this extraordinary artist.” bringing “unprecedented depth and intimacy to the exhibition experience.”

Official print from the acclaimed Duffy archive of David Bowie in his Scary Monsters Pierrot costume. This image was taken in Brian Duffy's son Chris's studio in London in 1980 and this contact sheet was then colourised by Chris. © Duffy

For the international exhibition, which at the time was a record-breaking show for the V&A (until Pink FloydsTheir Mortal Remains surpassed it last year) the curators were given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive.

It meant they were able to fill the show with incredible items and understanding, packing it into a design that reflected the musician’s changeable personas and mutant-like ability to regenerate his career.

David Bowie performing onstage at the Falkoner Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark in April 1976 on his Isolar-1976 Tour when he was in his 'Thin White Duke' period. © Jorgen Angel

But the career-spanning show also took in not only Bowie’s iconic personas, but contextualised them too. Showing us how artists like Gilbert and George were covering themselves with make-up (way before Bowie did) to entirely transform themselves, and how a JG Ballard essay informed Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust performance of “Starman” on Top of the Pops.

So it’ll be intriguing how this enlightening insight is transposed to a VR/AR app. And at least you won’t have to queue to get in or contend with other visitors getting in the way of exhibits you’re trying to view. Plus, if you really can try on a Bowie costume, well, that’s worth the admission price alone.

Midnight Special at The Marquee Club, London, UK in 1973. Photographer Stefan Wallgren, "This was a really special performance as it was Bowie's first since announcing his retirement a couple of months before, although this was obviously not the case, it was the last time his Ziggy Stardust alter ego was to make an appearance." © Stefan Wallgren

The app is being released by Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) around autumn 2018, and will be available in nine different languages.

Check out the V&A’s video ‘David Bowie is blowing our minds’ for more Bowie insight, where artists, journalists and fans look at why the musician was so influential. For more V&A Bowie go here. And check out the David Bowie is Real website here for updates on the VR/AR app.

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer many iconic David Bowie images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.

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