David Bowie Is

It's hard to imagine the entire city of Chicago being whipped into this much of a frenzy over a single art exhibit but if there's one subject that could do so it's the widely admired, enigmatic David Bowie. 

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Straight from Bowie's person archives, London's Victoria and Albert Museum has curated David Bowie Is, an expansive look into the singer's career starting with his birth in England in the 1940s. The international touring exhibition makes its first and only stop in the U.S. this Tuesday, Sept. 23, through January 4, 2015, at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Bowie is brought to life through more than 400 items plucked from significant moments in his nearly 50 innovative and revolutionary years in the music, art and film industries. From handwritten lyric sheets to his famously ornate touring costumes (many of which were created by his frequent collaborator Alexander McQueen) right down to a tissue smeared with Bowie's lipstick, all of the pieces give insight into the personal and public sides of the artist's life. 

David Bowie Is

In addition to documenting Bowie's prolific career, David Bowie Is explores more theoretical elements of the famed frontman's life like his unique lyric writing process and his transition in musical style over the years. Splashes of the culture surrounding Bowie - post-World War II British youth, The Beatles, A Clockwork Orange - also shed light on the image-obsessed artist he would eventually become. Tour set designs, original album artwork sketches and rare interview footage help explain just how involved Bowie has always been with every element of his work. 

David Bowie Is headset

An accompanying headset tracks your location as you walk through the hour-plus long exhibit, providing the one truly necessary element to any David Bowie display: a soundtrack. Televisions and screens line the walls of the showcase, playing everything to famed performances like his 1979 spot on Saturday Night Live, to archival interview footage to perhaps never-before-heard soundbites from Bowie's recording sessions. The exhibition culminates in a massive three-walled screen playing clips from some of Bowie most focal performances. The breathtaking audio and visual display depicts just how big Bowie is and has been for the last half decade, both in music and pop culture at large. 

A wealth of programs to accompany David Bowie Is have also been announced including MCA Talks with the likes of Nick Fraccaro and Paul Durica of Pocket Guide to Hell (which will explore Bowie's many Chicago connections) and Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes on the huge impact Bowie has had on his performance style; a David Bowie Film Festival (showcasing the singer/actor's most memorable onscreen moments); and a live music series in which local musicians like Tim Kinsella cover Bowie's best loved songs and albums. The full program listing is worth checking out

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago extends its hours for the duration of the exhibition to accompany its high demand. Tickets for David Bowie Is can be purchased online for $25 and include general admission into the museum.

Photos Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago