By Kyle MacMillan
The musical accomplishments and cultural impact of one of the most iconic figures in rock history will be showcased September 2014-January 2015 (exact dates have not yet been set) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago – the only American venue on the international tour of “David Bowie is.”
Museum leaders said Tuesday that they expect the high-profile exhibition to at least equal and likely exceed the attendance of its most popular exhibition to date – “Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson,” which drew 165,000 visitors in 2009.
Advance ticket sales broke all records at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, which organized the performer’s career retrospective in conjunction with the David Bowie Archives. The show, which closes there Aug. 11, has drawn about 300,000 people so far.
“There are high hopes,” said Michael Darling, the MCA’s chief curator, “that this could really generate a lot of interest and, therefore, really could be a milestone and bring a lot of awareness to the MCA that might not otherwise exist.”
Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour, 1973. Design: Kansai Yamamoto. Photo: Masayoshi Sukita. © Sukita / The David Bowie Archive 2012.
“David Bowie is” covers all aspects of the musician’s influential career and encompasses more than 300 objects, including costumes, photographs, music videos, music instruments, storyboards and handwritten set lists and lyrics. Highlights include Ziggy Stardust bodysuits, album artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell and set designs for the Diamond Dogs tour.
Everyone who enters the show receives a set of headphones, and as the viewer moves from one section to the next, sensors trigger an ever-changing Bowie soundtrack corresponding to what is on view.
“The thing that was really attractive to us,” Darling said, “was (Bowie’s) history of continually reinventing himself and slipping so seamlessly from one persona into the next, and the way he has done that for such a long time and how early on he was doing that seemed to us to be very applicable to ideas that have been floating around the contemporary art world.”
By expressing serious interest early on, the MCA was able to get a jump on other American institutions that likely wanted to be part of the exhibition’s tour, which will include stops in Toronto, São Paulo, Berlin and Paris.
“I think it was just us being pretty quick and decisive in that we thought this would be a great show for us, and they responded to that,” Darling said.
A big question for Bowie fans is whether the star will attend the show’s opening, and there is no answer to that yet.
“I don’t think anybody can guarantee that,” Darling said, “but, of course, we would be thrilled if he did. We’re in contact with his management, and we’ll make every effort to invite him and hope that he comes.”
For more information, visit: mcachicago.org/exhibitions/next/2014.
Kyle MacMillan is a local free-lance writer.