The highly acclaimed world tour of the David Bowie exhibition comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in its only North American stop, Sept. 23, 2014 to Jan. 4, 2015.

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David Bowie Is presents the first international exhibition of the extraordinary career of David Bowie — one of the most pioneering and influential performers of our time.

The exhibition, on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, focuses on his creative processes and collaborative work with artists and designers, and demonstrates how his work has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, music, and theater. The exhibition's multimedia design introduces advanced sound technology by Sennheiser and video installations to create an immersive journey through Bowie's artistic life.

David Bowie Is was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and is on view at the MCA from September 23, 2014 to January 4, 2015. The MCA Chicago is the only US venue for this groundbreaking exhibition. Get all the latest info, a full schedule of related events and exhibition tickets all at mcachicago.org/bowie.



Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago IL 60611
General: 312.280.2660

Ticket Information
Exhibition Ticket: $25 (includes general museum admission)
Tickets on sale now!

Museum Hours
The MCA has extended hours during the exhibition (Mondays are closed):
Tuesdays: 10 am - 8 pm
Wednesdays: 10 am - 5 pm
Thursdays: 10 am - 8 pm
Fridays: 10 am - 10 pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 9 am - 6 pm


The exhibition brings together more than 300 objects, including photography, album artwork, handwritten lyrics, original fashions, set designs, and rare performance material from the past five decades from the David Bowie Archive. David Bowie Is takes an in-depth look at how David Bowie's music and radical individualism has inspired others to challenge convention and pursue freedom of expression.

On display are more than 60 stage creations, artwork and more personal items including:

  • Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Buretti
  • Kansai Yamamoto's flamboyant attire for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973)
  • and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997)
  • photography by Brian Duffy, Terry O'Neill, and Masayoshi Sukita
  • album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell
  • cover proofs by Barnbrook for the latest album The Next Day (2013)
  • visual excerpts from films and live performances, including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Saturday Night Live (1979)
  • music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging (1979) and Let's Dance (1983)
  • set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974)
  • never-before-seen storyboards
  • handwritten set lists and lyrics
  • Bowie's own sketches, musical scores, and writings



Start with a look into Bowie's early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), it shows how he was inspired by innovations in art, theater, music, technology and youth culture in Britain in the aftermath of World War II. Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name 'David Bowie' in 1965 and went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his later career.

See early photographs, LPs from his musical heroes such as Little Richard, and sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The King Bees in the 1960s. This opening section concludes with a focus on Bowie's first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom, who would be revisited by Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie's breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.

The exhibition moves on to examine David Bowie's creative processes from song writing, recording, and producing to designing costumes, stage sets, and album artwork. Working within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section reveals the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theater and avant-garde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki performance.

On view are some of Bowie's own musical instruments, footage and photography of recording sessions for Outside (1995) and 'Hours...' (1999) as well as handwritten lyrics and word collages inspired by William S. Burroughs's 'cut up' method of writing that have never previously been publicly displayed.

David Bowie Is
chronicles his innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalized stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation: Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy's daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signaling a challenge of social traditions and inspiring people to shape their own identities.

See the original multi-colored suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, as well as outfits designed for stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. Costumes from The 1980 Floor Show (1973), album cover sleeves for The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971), alongside press clippings and fan material, highlight Bowie's fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.

The final section celebrates David Bowie as a pioneering performer both on stage and in film, concentrating on key performances throughout his career. An immersive audio-visual space presents dramatic projections of some of Bowie's most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995), as well as recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973, and D.A. Pennebaker's film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973). A separate screening room shows excerpts and props from Bowie's feature films such as Labyrinth (1986) and Basquiat (1996). In addition, this gallery traces the evolution of the lavishly produced Diamond Dogs tour (1974), the design of which was inspired by Fritz Lang's film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Bowie's tours combined choreography and colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theater to unprecedented levels. On display are previously unseen storyboards and tour footage for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show. An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie's Berlin period and the creation of the stylish Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 while living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy. David Bowie Is concludes with a room of towering projections of footage from his signature concert tours as well as the costumes that defined them.



In conjunction with the exhibition, David Bowie Is, the MCA offers an eclectic mix of Bowie-related talks, events, and performances.


MCA Talk: Bryan Ferry and Michael Bracewell
September 17 (6pm) tickets $5 

MCA Talk: Curating Bowie
September 21 (1pm) tickets $10

MCA Talk: Todd Haynes and Sandy Powell on Glam Rock
October 5 (3pm) tickets $10

MCA Talk: Simon Critchley Panel Discussion
November 7 (2pm) tickets $5

MCA Talk: Kevin Barnes on David Bowie
November 20 (6pm) tickets $10

MCA LIVE | Bowie

MCA Live: Covering Bowie
September 23 (6-8pm): White Mystery Covers Bowie
October 7 (6-8pm): Tim Kinsella Covers Hunky Dory
November 4 (6-8pm): ONO Covers Bowie


MCA Family Day: Dare
October 11 (11am-3pm), free for families with children ages 12 and under

MCA Family Day: Changes
November 8 (11am-3pm), free for families with children ages 12 and under


David Bowie Variety Hour
September 26-27, tickets $20; students $10

Michael Clark Company: come, been and gone
October 25-27, tickets $28; students $10

Bowie Changes
Tickets $20; students $10 (each performance is ticketed separately)
November 15: Bobby Conn
November 21: Jon Langford and Sally Timms
November 22: Disappears


David Bowie Concert at Daley Center Plaza
September 23 (noon-1pm), free

MCA Screen: Bowie Film Fest
October 18-19, free with museum admission


Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-2660
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