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Pierrot costume designed by Natasha Korniloff for David Bowie’s 1980 “Ashes to Ashes” video.

“David Bowie is”

Victoria and Albert Museum

Pierrot costume designed by Natasha Korniloff for David Bowie’s 1980 “Ashes to Ashes” video.

Watching David Bowie’s screen test at Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1971 is excruciating. Moments before it was recorded, the artist had reacted with typical blankness to a playback of Bowie’s song “Andy Warhol,” and the young singer, his flowing hippie tresses capped by a widebrimmed hat, can barely bring his eyes to meet the camera. For a few moments, he self-consciously acts out the old mime routine of being trapped in a box; then, sheepishly, he gives up. He may have failed in his attempt to engage with Pop art, but his multiple transformations would soon set the terms for what we now loosely call art rock. In 1996, he ended up portraying Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s film Basquiat, tricked out in the artist’s own silver wig and handbag.

This is one of the many remarkable, overlapping career trajectories mapped out in “David Bowie is,” curated by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh,

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