There’s not many album covers that are so iconic that you can dedicate an entire exhibition to them, but then David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane was no ordinary record.
The Southbank Centre’s exhibition, “Aladdin Sane: 50 Years,” centres on Bowie’s lightning portrait by photographer Brian Duffy – one of the most influential pop culture images of the past half century.
The exhibition is curated by Duffy’s son Chris and Geoff Marsh and will also look at his long-term collaboration with Bowie who he photographed for subsequent albums including 1979’s Lodger.
The exhibition puts the artwork in the context of its contemporaries, and looks at the working methods of Brian Duffy.
It’s surprisingly engaging and quite fun to immerse yourself in the pre-digital 1970s when communication happened via typewriter, faxes and phone calls.
This beautiful retro hi-fi system was pumping out the Aladdin Sane album.
The Guardian tells the story if the ‘zigzag;
The famous flash of lightning across David Bowie’s closed eyelid was a tiny emblem gracing the rock star’s cheekbone until the celebrated photographer Brian Duffy stepped in.
“He told the makeup artist ‘No, no, not like that’,” said the photographer’s son, Chris. So Duffy grabbed some lipstick to draw an outline of a much bigger flash … and Aladdin Sane was born.
Mark Ball, the Southbank Centre’s artistic director, said:
“The Aladdin Sane album cover portrait is considered to be one of the most influential pop culture images of the past half century, and the music remains fresh and contemporary, so we wanted to recognise this major anniversary and reflect on the album and its artwork’s enduring legacy.
“It’s a work that continues to inspire today’s contemporary artists and the gender fluidity of the images still resonate deeply in queer culture in the UK and across the world.”
The original Hunky Dory sleeve – a collector’s piece!
Mick Ronson poses for the camera.
US feminist academic Camille Paglia described Bowie’s portrait as “one of the most emblematic and influential art images of the past half-century, reproduced or parodied in advertising, media and entertainment worldwide”.
Aladdin Sane: 50 Years
Runs until 28 May 2023