David Bowie’s archive of more than 80,000 items has been donated to the V&A Museum so that it can be conserved and go on display to the public.
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.
Apart from the archive itself, the V&A has received a £10 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group to set up the David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts, which will be based at the V&A’s soon to open museum in east London.
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.
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. The archive also includes more intimate writings, thought processes and unrealised projects, the majority of which have never been seen in public before.
Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, said: “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. 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.”
Selected items from the archive will go on display from 2025 at V&A East, which is in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
V&A East Storehouse will be a new type of museum experience designed within and around the V&A’s stored collections and will bring together conservation labs, working stores, research and reading rooms with galleries, display and performance spaces and creative studios – brought together through an extensive public network centred around the Collections Hall.