The V&A has secured the archive of David Bowie – revealing the creative processes of one of the most pioneering and influential figures in the history of live and recorded music, film, fashion and beyond.
From 2025, the archive will be made available to the public, from fans to school children and researchers, through the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at V&A East Storehouse, in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The acquisition and creation of The Centre has been made possible thanks to the David Bowie Estate and a generous donation of £10m from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.
Encompassing more than 80,000 items, the archive traces Bowie’s creative processes as a musical innovator, cultural icon and advocate for self-expression and reinvention from his early career in the 1960s to his death in 2016.
Alongside the creation of the new Centre, the gift will support the ongoing conservation, research and study of the archive.
“David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time. The V&A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive, and to be able to open it up for the public,” commented Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A. “Bowie’s radical innovations across music, theatre, film, fashion, and style – from Berlin to Tokyo to London – continue to influence design and visual culture and inspire creatives from Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga to Tilda Swinton and Raf Simons.
“Our new collections centre, V&A East Storehouse, is the ideal place to put Bowie’s work in dialogue with the V&A’s collection spanning 5,000 years of art, design, and performance. My deepest thanks go to the David Bowie Estate, Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group for helping make this a reality and for providing a new sourcebook for the Bowies of tomorrow.”
Spanning Bowie’s career, the archive features handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments, album artwork and awards. It also includes more intimate writings, thought processes and unrealised projects, the majority of which have never been seen in public before.
Highlights include stage costumes such as the breakthrough Ziggy Stardust ensembles designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover.