“David Bowie is” — the show’s title keeps the answer ambiguous — presents Bowie not only as a rock pioneer but as a skilled actor, fashion icon, LGBT hero, inquisitive visual artist and even as a mime.
The exhibition, which opened five years ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, opens Friday at the Brooklyn Museum where it will close on July 15.
Curators at the Victoria and Albert said that the exhibition has already drawn nearly 1.8 million visitors in the 11 cities where it has been presented including Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, Melbourne, Paris, Tokyo, Toronto and Sao Paulo.
The trajectory of “David Bowie is” mirrors the path of the artist himself, who was born in London and settled in the early 1990s in New York, where he died in 2016 from a secret battle with cancer.
“When Bowie first visited New York in 1971 in his 20s he described it as a city like I fantasized over since by teens,” Tim Reeve, deputy director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, said at a preview.
“So it is fitting indeed that a place that David Bowie came to know as home should be the final stop on an incredible journey,” he said.
The Brooklyn Museum said it added some 100 objects to the exhibition to reflect Bowie’s time in the United States.
They include a clip from his praised Broadway performance in “The Elephant Man,” collaborative drawings with the experimental artist Laurie Anderson and a section on his 1970s soul phase that took him to Philadelphia.
Visitors are guided by interactive headphones that play Bowie’s songs from his 1969 breakthrough “Space Oddity” to his last album “Blackstar,” interspersed with interviews and footage of Bowie.
Highlights include costumes designed for Bowie by Kansai Yamamoto and Freddie Burretti, including the spacey quilted suit that Bowie wore on his landmark 1972 performance on the BBC’s “Top of the Pops.”
The exhibition could become a major money-maker. The Brooklyn Museum is dropping its pay-as-you-wish admission for “David Bowie is,” requiring timed tickets that start at $20.
Special tickets go up to $2,500 for a private, guided tour — a package that entertainment guide Time Out New York described as “perfect for, say, a visiting Russian oligarch.”