When Barcelona was announced as the next venue for the touring exhibition, David Bowie Is….., I thought to myself, “I don’t mind if I do!” so having already planned to be in Europe, I set aside a few days to explore Girona, Figueres and have another chance at seeing more of the Catalan capitol. And with that, I went ahead and booked myself in for some cheap flights and a ticket to opening day of the exhibition itself.
The morning arrived and I was out of bed and fed by 6 am. Yep, I was excited not only to be going but being assured of a copy for the latest exhibition only single. This time they were releasing “I’m Afraid Of Americans” on a red 7″ vinyl. Tops I thought. As you know from yesterday’s blog entry, I was lucky to be first in line because those little red gems vanished in record time. Under 5 minutes in fact!
Hold on a sec. I missed an important aspect of the morning. Being at the venue smack on 8 o’clock sharp, I was happy to wait the two hours before opening time safe in the knowledge that before long more DB fans would arrive. And that they did. Mostly from the UK though there were a couple of Americans, some Dutch and German fans as well. It was great being in line chatting away about all things Bowie and then some. The first chap behind me was Andy from Manchester. He was with his wife, also a Bowie fan! Next up were a couple of scousers and after that mostly more Brits and Europeans.
With such lovely people to talk with, the time flew by and before we knew it, we were in and battling our way to the merchandise store before heading to the actual exhibition itself. Hard as they tried, the staff were not very successful at getting us to go inside before the shop. You would have thought by now, some four years after opening, the people that run this gig would be wise enough to have things running smoothly.
After the shambles of the merchandise store, of which they had very little of any remarkable items aside from the norm, I made my way into an almost empty show room. It seems the local Spanish population are not as keen on David Bowie Is…. as I had imagined. I’d imagine it will still make a ton of cash for the Bowie estate and the V&A no doubt.
I’ve seen this exhibition in London, Paris, Melbourne, Groningen and Tokyo before now. Each time there are some subtle changes but overall, it’s all the same. Still, a sense of excitement runs through me every time I see these beautiful items from Bowie’s personal collection on show.
The venue is not as large as the others I have visited which meant a more condensed and limited output this time around. They biggest surprise came at the end with the significantly reduced video room which is the last stop before exiting. Nothing will ever top the London showing of these treasures so I guess, for myself, there is a tiny let down whenever I see it in other cities.
On the plus side, the staff were very laid back in regards to taking photos. They tried a few times to remind me to not take photos but that hasn’t stopped me the previous five times and it was definitely not going to stop me this time. There was one older lady though who took it upon herself to constantly tell me, “No foto!, no foto!” at every opportunity she could. Eventually, she complained to the staff who, in turn, did nothing before finally giving up in the Berlin room. What did it matter to her anyway?
Speaking of the Berlin room!
This area has to be my favourite area to visit each and every time. It rarely changes but it is just such a wonderful set up with so much interesting items on show and some fabulous sound and vision montages. I did notice in Groningen that there was an extra segment relating to Bowie’s 1987 Glass Spider show and the impact it had in helping to eventually bring the Berlin Wall down which was nice.
Most of the other rooms before Berlin had a more condensed feel and it lacked a bit of fluidity to the experience. Still, first timers to the exhibition won’t know what they are missing will they now? Once more, the final room, showing a selection of live Bowie performances was a slimmed down version with the previously on show stage costumes hidden behind mesh on the video wall. It’s been my one constant criticism of this exhibition. Why have so many wonderful outfits like the Diamond Dogs tour costume and a selection of astonishing Ziggy era outfits so well hidden away from prying eyes?
Regardless of its current flaws, this sublime exhibition of personal effects from Bowie’s archive will leave visitors with a significant wow feeling once they complete their time inside. If ardent fans like myself are still getting blown away at how Bowie kept hand written notes, bills and lyrics going as far back as the mid 60’s, it makes you realise just how much self belief he must have acquired long before his breakthrough hit in 1969 with Space Oddity. What’s more, one cannot help but think of exactly what else Bowie had stored away before his passing.
So, how does David Bowie Is…. Barcelona rate on my level? Whilst it’s still good to see, sadly, for me, it drops to the bottom of my list. And that list is….