From Subway Station to Art Exhibit: David Bowie Is Here

My walls are adorned with images of his work, I’ve performed his music countless times on stage, and even my dog is named after his alter ego. Ziggy Stardust, the German shepherd, is as wily as his namesake.
Credit Bowery Boogie

So, it wasn’t a big surprise that this May I was thrilled when I came across an installation at the Broadway-Lafayette subway station in New York City.

Spotify, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum, chose to celebrate David Bowie’s life, art and work in a neighbourhood of NYC where Bowie lived for nearly two decades. It brought awareness to his history in the neighbourhood, but also to the “David Bowie Is” exhibit that was on at the museum until July 15.

The massive art exhibition took over the station with a collection of striking portraits of Bowie displayed on staircases, album art fixed to the station’s walls, and Bowie-themed Metro Cards, which are now selling online for $200 (regularly $5.50 each).

Credit Spotify

The life-sized images of the Thin White Duke were paired with quotes from Bowie about the city and how it impacted his work, among other digitally immersive features. Users could scan a Spotify code on the wall to listen to Bowie tracks and even follow an NYC map of his old haunts like Electric Lady Studios where he wrote his first Number 1 single in the U.S., “Fame.”

Credit Behance

Beyond, the subway takeover, Spotify introduced Spotlight, a series of Bowie Stories. The content was made of anecdotes, essays, photos and video and behind-the-scenes items from the David Bowie Archive. This outside-the-box thinking was in part why Spotify was awarded Media Brand of Year at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival.

Although suspicious of most posthumous Bowie related promotions and campaigns, this one felt different for me. It wasn’t as opportunistic as, say, Crocs or Office Shoes’ attempt to cash in. There was a level of education, celebration, nostalgia and class in how they did it. As an extension of “David Bowie is,” organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, subway users were treated to a one-of-a-kind experience.

Credit USA Today

From a marketing perspective, the campaign was geographically targeted, and the viewers were drawn to engage with content on their commute; giving subway users a sense of pride in the city they lived in. Also, Spotify, the NYC Transit Authority and the Brooklyn Museum brought awareness and revenue to all organizations involved. Sounds like a win, win, win to me.

“Bowie Is” Exhibit Stats: 5 years, 12 venues, 11 countries and welcomed over 2 million visitors.

Follow the exhibit’s journey as it travelled the world on Twitter at #davidbowieisbkm

Here’s a great overview of the campaign/art exhibit in action from Cannes Lions:

Header image from