David Bowie Aladdin Sane photograph gifted to V&A museum

Mark Brown
The print is from a colour transparency image that became one of the world’s most recognisable album covers. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

A photograph from the photo session for David Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane has been gifted to the V&A as it announced record visitor figures for its world-touring David Bowie is exhibition.

The V&A said on Wednesday that the archive of the late photographer Brian Duffy had donated a print of a colour transparency image, from the photo session that led to one of the world’s most recognisable album covers.

The gift celebrates a milestone for the V&A’s Bowie show, which will welcome its 2-millionth visitor during its run at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the final stage of a world tour that began five years ago.

The David Bowie album cover of Aladdin Sane, originally photographed by Brian Duffy. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Duffy was one of the “terrible trio”, or “Black Trinity”, of photographers who helped capture the vibrancy of London in the swinging sixties and beyond. With fellow East Enders David Bailey and Terence Donovan, Duffy brought new ideas and a new energy to celebrity photography.

The Aladdin Sane image, an orange haired Bowie with a red and blue painted lightning flash painted on his face, is one of Duffy’s most famous.

Chris Duffy, son of Brian and director of the Duffy Archive, said it “is one of the best known and most copied images of the late 20th century. Today, it is instantly recognised around the world.

“My father greatly enjoyed his unique creative partnership with David. I think he would be delighted that his work is joining the V&A’s collection and that it has contributed to the continuing public interest in one of the UK’s great creative forces.”

The gift was welcomed by the culture secretary Matt Hancock who said it celebrated “David Bowie’s seismic cultural importance and the huge contribution Brian Duffy made to 20th century photography.”

The V&A’s exhibition is the museum’s most visited international touring show in its 165-year history. Around 312,000 visitors first saw it in London in 2013 and it has since toured to Toronto, Sao Paulo, Berlin, Chicago, Paris, Melbourne, Groningen in the Netherlands, Bologna, Tokyo, Barcelona and now New York where it will end, forever, on 15 July.