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“Designing 007 – 50 years of Bond style” at The Barbican Centre, City of London

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Posted by May B on Saturday 4th of August 2012


I’m not exactly a James Bond fan – my favourite film being “Live and Let Die”, perhaps because of its Caribbean location. Although I was fortunate enough to attend the Royal Premiere of “Die another Day” several years back and thoroughly enjoyed the celebrity-packed after party staged in a huge ice palace opposite the Royal Albert Hall. And I admit that I have a bit of a crush on Daniel Craig.

Anyway, in the entrance vestibule to the Barbican – after a series of classic Bond posters - is a rather tired looking model of James Bond perched on a fabulous Aston Martin. I parted with my £12 (kids £8) to enter the exhibition and was given a ticket which has three areas on it that are stamped – like a passport – as you pass through each stage of the exhibition.

I passed through the tunnel to be confronted with a round bed bearing a model of that iconic gold woman. The walls are filled with original designer drawings of sets, props and costumes and there are numerous screens showing clips of James Bond films. I watched Pussy Galore for a while and some excerpts of other Royal Premieres including footage of Princess Diana. There’s a small room dedicated to Fleming before entering a room containing M’s office. I really liked the overhead flat screens showing yet more clips. There are drawings and guns everywhere. Plus a fair few of those gorgeous outfits worn by Bond girls.

For the fashion conscious there’s a feature on “Tailoring Bond”. Then – my favourite bit – a large area where the walls are made up of an assortment of huge packing cases. We have entered Q Branch and there are loads of gadgets (including guns, glasses full of diamonds, models of cars and helicopters etc) on just about every surface – sprinkled liberally with screens showing clips of those gadgets in action and more car chases than you can shake a stick at.

Then I found myself in a casino and surrounded by glamorous jewel-coloured evening costumes and lots of DJs with huge chandeliers overhead. With a wall of film clips on one side and a mirror wall on the other it was quite a spectacle. There were notes about the design of martini glasses, jewellery and – of course – more guns. By this time I was beginning to adjust to the constant onslaught of images of Bond men – including Mr Craig.

In a smaller space I met Solitaire – from my favourite film - and then there was an area then that spanned the Sahara and space (‘Foreign Territories’) – astronauts suspended from the ceiling and tank models in glass cases. I was reaching the end of the first stage and nearly missed some glass cases featuring beach ware – including those famous bikinis of Ursula Andress and Halle Berry and Mr Craig’s trunks. Sigh.

The second area of the exhibition is titled “Villains and Enigmas”. You walk around tall posters of stills with instantly recognisable characters (Grace Jones!) – interspersed with more costume designs and scale models of everything from sharks to cable cars. It was a bit tricky navigating from this section across to the lifts and down to the pit but it was well worth the effort to enter a large circular area called “Ice Palace”, which had – in its centre – a large ice-like construction.

There was a massive wall size screen here showing some very exciting action shots and chases and all around were more costumes – fur trimmed as well as rhinestone studded (the Miranda Frost and Jinx Johnson outfits were stunning – such intricate beading work) and full sized jet ski things and loads of drawings showing how the set designers tackled the challenges of snow and ice filled scenes.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to dwell in the Bond pop-up shop (although Solitaire’s replica tarot cards and Alessi cocktail shakers were admired) or to have a drink at the 007 Martini bar – but I was sorely tempted. And I continued to hum that famous theme tune for the rest of the day. And maybe, just maybe, I will go along to see the 23rd Bond film – Skyfall – when it opens on 26th October,

Further information at: http://www.barbican.org.uk/bond/


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