David Bowie Is


This weekend, I went to with some very dear friends to go see David Bowie Is at the Brooklyn Museum. To say that I had my mind blown and then reformed and then blown again and then reformed again would be an understatement.

Firstly before we get into the finer details can we take a moment to appreciate the Bowie doll my friend made?




I mean gosh.

Before we get into the exhibit I feel the need to mention what Bowie means to me. In the darkest time of my life, Bowie was the only music I could still listen to. After diagnosis everything was severed, except for him. The starman managed to traverse that chasm and I am forever grateful for it. I needed a starman to help me stitch back together the ruins that this diagnosis made of my life. I needed his voice to distract me from my premature death. I needed a starman, a hero.

In a very real way David Bowie saved my life.

So with all of that in mind, you must know this was a big day for me.


Going forward, these pictures are not mine. You weren’t allowed to take photos in the exhibit so everything coming up is from articles or the Brooklyn Museum site.

The first thing you see going in is this.


I mean honestly this is how it STARTS.

You also get headphones. As you move through the exhibit you’ll hear different songs playing, snippets of conversation and as you get closer to different television screens, you’ll hear the songs that are playing or the interview that is going on. It’s a completely immersive experience. And I do not use the word experience lightly. Lots of things claim to be an experience and more often than not they rarely are.

But this. This is an experience.

Yes, there are the costumes.

bowie costumes
The 1984 “Blue Jean” costume by Alison Chitty, left, and the 1980 “Ashes to Ashes” costume by Natasha Korniloff. Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
bowie costumes.2jpg
The pink jumpsuit Bowie wore in his “DJ” video in 1979. Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
Cage boots created for Bowie’s “Dead Man Walking” video in 1997

There were his paintings, litographs from album covers, sketches of set designs for things he created, like the 1980 Floor Show

Bowie’s original sketches for some of his costume designs for “The 1980 Floor Show.” Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

One of the things that really got me were his set of keys from his Berlin apartment on Haupstrasse 155. I went to that apartment in 2015. I saw the door those keys opened and now here, were the keys.

Another of my favorite were his paintings.

Portrait of Jo – 1976
Self-portrait – 1978, Inspired by the cover for the album cover of Heroes (Victoria and Albert Museum)

There were clips of his movies, including Labyrinth which if you know me you know that was my second introduction to Bowie (Space Oddity was my first and it scared the crap out of me). They also had Jareth’s riding crop and one of the crystal balls.

Oh and because I couldn’t decide WHICH of my Bowie shirts to wear I went old school.IMG_3401[1]

I was in there for four hours. Towards the back, you are instructed to remove your headphones and you enter a room with wall to wall screens upon which are live clips of David playing different concerts – including the Reality tour (a personal favorite of mine). I never saw Bowie live.

This was the closest I ever came and let me tell you, it was damn good.

Oh and if you go, his cocaine spoon is in that room so be sure to check it out.

But by far my favorite parts were the lyrics, including marginalia for himself. He was so nice to himself as a creator – noting in the margins if something wasn’t working that he just needed to give it a little more attention, a little more time. That he was sure it would work out. The exhibit is filled with little moments like that. Where you can really feel his joy in creating.

I have marginalia notes too and let me tell you, that’re not nearly as encouraging. I think I should change that. (Thanks again, David).

And the journal entry where he mentions recording Fame with Lennon is classic. When he first mentions meeting him he writes “Lennon (a beatle).”

The exhibit ended with Blackstar, of course. They had the book the preacher holds up in the video, notes about set and concept and costume design.

When you went into that room, you could listen to Blackstar, a ten minute work of art, which I did, leaning against the wall, with my eyes closed. When it ended, I whispered, “thank you david,” and then handed my headphones back over and exited through the gift shop (much poorer than when I had entered!)

It’s a stellar exhibit and if you’re even a casual fan and have the opportunity I highly recommend it. I for one will be going as many times as I can between now and it’s closing date in July.

Afterwards, we stopped at The Norm for some much needed, Bowie inspired drinks.


Left – Thin White Duke Center – Fame Right – Starman
Again, there really is nothing like this exhibit.

Nor do I imagine there ever will be.

I mean, who other than David Bowie could have the scope, the talent and the body of work to inspire something like this? Let us all thank our lucky stars we were fortunate enough to share the same time and space with our Starman.

It began in London, where Bowie is from and it ends in New York, where he spent his final days. If you’re in town, please by all means, come see it.




By Ally Malinenko

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not. I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered. I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died. I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote some novels. You can read them.

1 comment

  1. I literally stood over that Black Star glass case and could not stop the waterworks coming from my eyes. I just kept reading and reading and reading and analyzing his handwriting and thinking about what he was thinking when he wrote that and where he was in his life and how fucking surreal it was that I was standing there reading that. I could go on and on and on about how that entire exhibit affected me. But then the icing on the cake later that same day, was 8 p.m. going to the Lazarus film premiere. By the end of the day I was completely dehydrated from the tears. It shows in my photos.

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