David Bowie fans will get a deeper look into his life, work and legacy as an extensive archive is to go on display to the public for the first time.
A collection of 80,000 letters, lyrics, photos, stage designs, music awards and costumes that spans six decades of the rock star’s career will be displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 2025.
Also featured will be several instruments owned by Bowie, including the Stylophone he played on his breakout 1969 single Space Oddity.
They will be made available to the public through the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts, a newly created east London venue, which will open in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The collection will feature handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, album artwork and awards.
It will also include instruments owned by the world-famous musician, as well as writings and unrealised projects never before seen in public.
Highlights include stage costumes such as Bowie’s breakthrough Ziggy Stardust ensembles, designed by Freddie Burretti in 1972, Kansai Yamamoto’s creations for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973, and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the 1997 Earthling album cover.
The archive also includes more than 70,000 photographs, prints, negatives, slides and contact sheets taken by some of the 20th century’s leading photographers from Terry O’Neill to Brian Duffy and Helmut Newton.
Its acquisition by the V&A and the creation of the centre was made possible thanks to the David Bowie Estate and £10 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.
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.”
A spokesperson from the David Bowie Estate, added: “With David’s life’s work becoming part of the UK’s national collections, he takes his rightful place amongst many other cultural icons and artistic geniuses.
“The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performance – and the behind the scenes access that V&A East Storehouse offers – will mean David’s work can be shared with the public in ways that haven’t been possible before.
“We’re so pleased to be working closely with the V&A to continue to commemorate David’s enduring cultural influence.”
Max Lousada, chief executive of recorded music at Warner Music Group, said: “As the stewards of David Bowie’s extraordinary music catalogue, we’re delighted to expand our relationship with his estate through this partnership with the V&A.
“This archive promises to be an unparalleled display of individual artistic brilliance, invention, and transformation.
“Bowie’s influence only grows in stature over time, and this will be an enduring celebration of his profound legacy.”