in other words

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#28 The Man Behind Bowie


David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. Photo credit: Jim Forrest

Art Agency, Partners
#28 The Man Behind Bowie

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

Two million people have so far visited the touring exhibition “David Bowie Is”, on show now at the Brooklyn Museum (until 15 July). The blockbuster exhibition was masterminded by Geoffrey Marsh, the director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) theater and performing arts department.

He has organized several other major “immersive” exhibitions, harnessing state-of-the-art audio and visuals to tell narratives in new ways, such as “You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970” (2016-17) and “Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains” (2017).

Marsh joins our host Charlotte Burns in London to talk about combing through Bowie’s collection to tell the story of how this music legend evolved.

He also talks about how new technologies—specifically augmented reality—will change the ways in which exhibitions are curated and experienced, as well as the role of the museum itself.

Marsh also discusses his dream exhibition: “a show so powerful that probably 10% of people would walk out because they hated it. For the other 90%, it would have had a very profound effect. I know it’s possible,” he says.

Most people can remember seeing their first dinosaur skeleton in museums, “so there’s something hardwired into us about profound visual experiences which, in a weird way, I think we may have lost in museums and galleries”, he says. That sense of curiosity and wonder is something Marsh is working to bring back as we enter what he calls a “golden age of museums being able to engage with completely new publics in different ways”.

For the full transcript, click here

Sound bites from the show:

“I suppose the most emotional showing was in Berlin because it was right next to the Berlin Wall; right next to the Hansa Studios where David recorded Heroes, of course at a time when Berlin was a very, very different city.”

“I think we may be going into a golden age, actually, of museums being able to engage with completely new publics in different ways.”

“What came out of the exhibition was how profoundly visitors brought their own memories of music and their life to it.”


Geoffrey Marsh

director, Victoria and Albert Museum's department of theater and performance

Geoffrey Marsh is the director of the V&A’s department of theater and performance. Past exhibitions organized by Marsh include “You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70” (2017), “David Bowie Is” (2013 at the V&A and still touring), “The Story of the Supremes from the Mary Wilson Collection” (2008) and “Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes” (2010).

Previously, he ran the London office of AEA Consulting and was Director of Development at the Imperial War Museum, which included the project team for the new IWM North in Manchester. Marsh has often worked as a consultant for the planning of cultural developments including projects in Australia, Canada, Italy, Belgium and Iraq.

Charlotte Burns

executive editor of In Other Words

Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.


By Pablo Helguera

David Bowie is exhibition catalogue (2013), edited by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, published by V&A Publishing

David Bowie is – Review” by Peter Conrad in Guardian (March 2013)

David Bowie is Becomes the Victoria and Albert’s Fastest-Selling Event Ever” by Alexis Petridis in Guardian (March 2013)

David Bowie is, at V&A” by Alastair Smarth in The Telegraph (March 2013)