The much-anticipated “David Bowie Is,” which opens to the public tomorrow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, could turn out to be the biggest blockbuster in the museum’s history. Chicago is the only U.S. stop for the traveling exhibition, which is packed with costumes, videos, documents and odds and ends from the seemingly extraterrestrial pop star’s vast personal archive.
The show has drawn large crowds since it was organized in 2013 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. And it’s easy to see why — the smart, slick presentation of Mr. Bowie’s sound and vision offers the rare peek into his weird world.
Fans of the musician will rocket here from around the country. But casual museumgoers may wonder: What is this show doing in an art museum? Speaking at a media preview of the exhibit on Sept. 19, the MCA’s chief curator, Michael Darling, insisted, “This is not just a show about a pop star.” As he points out, Mr. Bowie is not just a musician, but also an actor and visual artist. (And, apparently, a pack rat.) Plus, the MCA, he says, covers many artistic disciplines, including music.
Mr. Bowie has “an obsession with the creation of culture,” explained Geoffrey Marsh, one of the show’s London curators. “That’s what we really wanted to bring out, the nature of creativity.”
Of course, despite what the curators say, it does feel like a worshipful monument to one celebrity — albeit a fascinating one who has shaped and reshaped his image multiple times over the decades. Anyone with more than a passing interest in rock music, or history, or both, will have fun walking through “David Bowie Is.” Still undecided? Here are five highlights to help you make up your mind.