In 2013, Victoria Broackes, from the V&A’s Theatre and Performance department, curated David Bowie Is, an exhibition which has now reached a million and a half visits on its world tour. The show gave unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive and featured more than 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie’s own instruments. Currently presented in Japan, the show will open at The Museu del Disseny de Barcelona on 25 May, right on time for the Sonar and Primavera Festivals. Yesterday at the Grammys, David Bowie’s ★ album won all five categories the album was nominated for including Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Recording Package, Best Engineered Album; Non-Classical. That’s very impressive.
For Art is Alive, Victoria exclusively reveals that Bowie himself came to see the show, talks about her tastes in art, poetry and theatre and the upcoming exhibition she’s currently working on and one David Bowie would have loved to visit: Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains.
Favourite David Bowie song and album?
At the moment it’s Hunky Dory, but I have been around and about. During the development of the show I got very into Station to Station, and loved to listen to it very loud, driving around in the car! I also like everything from the 70s, Let’s Dance and Heathen from 2003. For songs, my perennial favourite is Life on Mars?, but I also love Sweet Thing, Where Are We Now, Lady Grinning Soul, Kooks, The Man Who Sold the World…
Your favourite poets?
William Blake. We’ve placed him twice in our current show You Say You Want a Revolution? (which is about the 1960s from the standpoint of today), with ‘London’, from Songs of Experience in the first section and Jerusalem as the final exhibit. I think his message of resisting oppression and striving to create a better world is as relevant and powerful as ever. I first encountered him at school and although I couldn’t understand much but I was immediately entranced, and that hasn’t gone away.
If not yourself, who would you be?
Rebecca West – although not the being dead bit!
Your idea of misery?
I hate being cold and wet! Not real misery, but a personal one I try to avoid.
Best thing a cabbie told you?
That his brother was appearing at the V&A. His brother was Alexander McQueen!
Who are your heroes?
Martin Luther King, the Pankhursts.
Your favourite virtue?
Kindness, curiosity and humour.
Favourite memory of working on David Bowie Is?
When the David Bowie archive objects, which formed 90% of the show, arrived, just after New Year 2013! The shipment should have arrived before Christmas, so I was nervous, never truly believing that we were going to be able to do the exhibition, or that it wouldn’t be pulled at the last minute, until the objects were on site.
Secret place in London?
It’s not a secret place but at weekends we love to walk our dog along the towpath from Hammersmith to Barnes, and finish with lunch on Chiswick Mall.
Your favourite painters?
Graham Sutherland, Gustave Courbet, Lucian Freud.
Your favourite hero in fiction?
Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, always bouncy and looking for adventure.
Strangely interesting anecdote on curating David Bowie Is?
That Bowie came to the show secretly one early Sunday morning.
If you were locked for one night at the V&A, which gallery / room would you spend most time in?
The British Galleries, at least two beds there. I could sleep on the Bed of Ware or the State Bed from Melville House.
What do you collect?
I have some pop posters, the Saville Theatre psychedelic ones by Hapshash and Coloured Coat and Martin Sharp’s gorgeous gold and red Dylan from 1967.
Favourite fashion designers at the moment?
I love the work of Phoebe Philo who incidentally is the daughter of Celia Philo who art directed the famous Aladdin Sane/ Bowie lightning bolt album cover. They came to the exhibition together – I had no idea until then.
Last play you saw and why did you like it?
The last play I saw was David Hare’s Red Barn at the National, it was stunningly designed and grippingly suspenseful.
Favourite museum in Paris?
Nissim Camondo and Gustave Moreau, I like small house museums.
Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, opens 13 May.