Turn and Face the Strange: "David Bowie Is" Exhibit Comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

By Louise Burton on May 21, 2014 01:16 AM EDT

David Bowie is, and will always be, cooler than you. Androgynous before it was a career path for pop vocalists, he has gone through many phases and periods. He is a triumph of image, perhaps the most carefully-controlled stage persona in history.

It was probably only a matter of time until Bowie himself became the subject of a fine art exhibition. The show "David Bowie is," currently on tour, was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

And now the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago invites you to turn and face the strange, when it hosts the show from September 23-January 4. The MCA is the only venue in the U.S. chosen to present this comprehensive view of Bowie's career.

Realizing that it has quite a coup on its hands, the MCA started selling $100 advance "Bowie Superfan" tickets to the exhibition on Tuesday. $25 tickets go on sale to the general public starting on July 31; more information is available at

This multimedia exhibition presents the costumes, music videos, photographs and cover art that illustrate Bowie's artistic development, from "Space Oddity" and "Ziggy Stardust" all the way through his latest album The Next Day. There are more than 60 stage creations 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).

And there will be music videos such as "Boys Keep Swinging" (1979) and "Let's Dance" (1983); and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974). A separate screening room will show excerpts and props from Bowie's feature films such as Labyrinth (1986) and Basquiat (1996).

The show also holds more personal items such as never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics, as well as some of Bowie's own sketches, musical scores, and writings, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas.

Michael Darling, the curator of the MCA show, said "This exhibition portrays an artist in control of his practice who recognizes that the smallest details contribute to the overall aesthetic experience of the audience. Bowie's peerless understanding of the importance of image cultivation and reinvention make him a comfortable fit with others in the MCA Collection and exhibition history, such as Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol--and similar to many artists working today, he has never limited himself to one area of cultural production."

Indeed, Bowie's chameleon-like ability to re-invent himself has led to one of the longer careers in popular music. Although he changes, he somehow stays the same, and his image is forever ingrained into the consciousness of anyone born after, oh, let's say, 1968. And that's a sizeable portion of the art-museum crowd.

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TagsDavid Bowie, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, David Bowie is, Michael Darling, Let's Dance, Ziggy Stardust, Labyrinth

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