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The Man Behind Bowie

Two million people have so far visited the touring exhibition David Bowie Is, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum until 15 July. The blockbuster exhibition was masterminded by Geoffrey Marsh, the director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum theater and performing arts department. He has organized several other major “immersive” exhibitions, harnessing state-of-the-art audio and visuals to tell narratives in new ways, such as You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966–1970 (2016–17) and Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains (2017).

Marsh joins our host Charlotte Burns in London to talk about combing through Bowie’s collection to tell the story of how this music legend evolved. He also talks about how new technologies – specifically augmented reality – will change the ways in which exhibitions are curated and experienced, as well as the role of the museum itself.

Marsh also discusses his dream exhibition: “a show so powerful that probably 10% of people would walk out because they hated it. For the other 90%, it would have had a very profound effect. I know it’s possible,” he says. Most people can remember seeing their first dinosaur skeleton in museums, “so there’s something hardwired into us about profound visual experiences which, in a weird way, I think we may have lost in museums and galleries,” he says. That sense of curiosity and wonder is something Marsh is working to bring back as we enter what he calls a “golden age of museums being able to engage with completely new publics in different ways.”

“In Other Words” is a presentation of AAP and Sotheby’s, produced by Audiation.fm.

Things like augmented reality, I think, are going to fundamentally change all exhibitions . . . they’re going to change how we see the world, full stop. Exhibitions are just part of that.

From the Podcast...

“I suppose the most emotional showing was in Berlin because it was right next to the Berlin Wall. Right next to the Hansa Studios where David recorded Heroes, of course at a time when Berlin was a very, very different city."

“I think we may be going into a golden age actually of museums being able to engage with completely new publics in different ways.”

“What came out of the exhibition was how profoundly visitors brought their own memories of music and their life to the exhibition.”

More on Geoffrey Marsh

Geoffrey Marsh is the director of the V&A’s department of theater and performance. Past exhibitions organized by Marsh include You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966–70 (2017), David Bowie Is (2013 at the V&A and still touring), The Story of the Supremes from the Mary Wilson Collection (2008) and Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes (2010).

Previously, he ran the London office of AEA Consulting and was Director of Development at the Imperial War Museum, which included the project team for the new IWM North in Manchester. Marsh has often worked as a consultant for the planning of cultural developments including projects in Australia, Canada, Italy, Belgium and Iraq.

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