Southbank Centre celebrates 50 years of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album

The well-known flash of lightning throughout David Bowie’s closed eyelid was a tiny emblem gracing the rock star’s cheekbone till the celebrated photographer Brian Duffy stepped in.

“He instructed the make-up artist ‘No, no, not like that’,” mentioned the photographer’s son, Chris. So Duffy grabbed some lipstick to attract an overview of a a lot larger flash … and Aladdin Sane was born.

The {photograph} is the centrepiece of an exhibition celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 Bowie album that was launched with 100,000 advance orders, taking it straight to No 1.

Duffy’s picture grew to become “the Mona Lisa of pop”, in line with his son, who curated the exhibition on the Southbank Centre in central London and has written a ebook, Aladdin Sane 50: The definitive celebration of Bowie’s most iconic album and music’s most well-known {photograph}.

Camille Paglia, a US feminist tutorial, described the image as “one of the emblematic and influential artwork pictures of the previous half-century, reproduced or parodied in promoting, media and leisure worldwide”.

Chatting with the Guardian on the eve of the exhibition’s opening, Chris Duffy mentioned that for his father it was “simply one other job”. He added: “I don’t assume any artist will get up within the morning and thinks I’m going to create a bit of sensible artwork or a cultural icon. It’s all about timing. Loads of issues got here collectively on the proper time to provide this.”

Bowie, morphing from Ziggy Stardust, his earlier persona, to Aladdin Sane, insisted on a lightning flash. “The picture asks extra questions than it solutions: many dissertations have been written about its that means,” Duffy mentioned. “Bowie was very intelligent at placing one thing on the market, and letting everybody else give you some type of concept on it.”

The shoot itself lasted lower than an hour. The movie was then despatched for business processing. “There have been no instantaneous digital pictures or Photoshop then,” he mentioned. “It’s extraordinary the way it has lasted and been endlessly reworked. Wherever I am going on the planet, it’s at all times someplace on a T-shirt.”.

The Hassleblad camera Brian Duffy used to shoot the iconic album cover.
The Hassleblad digicam Brian Duffy used to shoot the long-lasting album cowl. {Photograph}: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Within the early Seventies – a time of commercial unrest and “normal dystopia” – Bowie’s revolutionary music, extraordinary personas and sexual ambiguity had been a “full revolution”, he mentioned, including: “The flash grew to become an emblem for a brand new era to seize maintain of.”

The exhibition is amongst a variety of occasions on the Southbank Centre to mark the album’s anniversary, together with reside music, talks and poetry.

Musicians Anna Calvi, Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, Tawiah, Roxanne Tataei and Lynks can pay tribute to the pop legend by performing the album’s 10 tracks, which embrace hits The Jean Genie and Drive-In Saturday.

The Nationwide Poetry Library has commissioned 10 poets to jot down new verse in response to the album’s tracks that might be introduced reside on stage.

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Mark Ball, the Southbank Centre’s inventive director, mentioned: “The Aladdin Sane album cowl portrait is taken into account to be one of the influential popular culture pictures of the previous half century, and the music stays contemporary and up to date, so we wished to recognise this main anniversary and mirror on the album and its art work’s enduring legacy.

“It’s a piece that continues to encourage right this moment’s up to date artists and the gender fluidity of the photographs nonetheless resonate deeply in queer tradition within the UK and internationally.”

Bowie carried out on the Purcell Room on the Southbank Centre in 1969, and later curated Meltdown, an arts pageant on the Competition Corridor.

Bowie died of most cancers in 2016, on the age of 69, leaving 26 albums that impressed a era of aspiring rock stars. Duffy, who vividly documented the swinging 60s along with his style and pop pictures, died in 2010.

  • Aladdin Sane: 50 Years is on the Southbank Centre till 28 Might

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