In the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace, MI6 is depicted as operating from London's Barbican Centre. In July, Britain's best loved spy will be making a return, but this time for an exhibition to celebrate the film franchise's 50th anniversary.
Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style promises to showcase five decades of gadgets, sets, costumes and cars, along with the blueprints, drawings and models that went into creating them. "It's the unseen Bond," said the show's curator, fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave. "We're showing the complete scope of design of a Bond film, which has never been done before."
Cosgrave has worked on the show for the past two years with Bond producers Eon, with "unprecedented access" to the Bond archive in north London. Designed by architect Ab Rogers, the "immersive" show will take up the Barbican's entire ground floor and a lower level theatre, with exhibits from Dr No, to this year's forthcoming Skyfall.
The third Bond film to star Daniel Craig, Skyfall has raised eyebrows for filming in the distinctly un-Bond Bognor Regis, though Cosgrave points out that it has also been shot in Shanghai. It will be released on October 26. By then, the exhibition will have moved to Toronto, the next stop on a three-year tour.
There is currently a rival exhibition of Bond's vehicles running at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, but Cosgrave said the two shows would complement each other. "We'll have a few vehicles – you can't have Bond without an Aston Martin DB5. There will be a boat, there will be a snowmobile, but that's a very specific show. We're not going in-depth on cars."
Fashion enthusiasts, however, will be well catered for, with costumes by celebrated designers from Hubert de Givenchy to Tom Ford and including Daniel Craig's swimming trunks, which left audiences both shaken and stirred when he wore them in Casino Royale. Outfits that have been lost will be recreated by costume designer Lindy Hemming.
Bond's anniversary has come at an opportune time, with a multitude of other British cultural figures, from Shakespeare and Dickens to Damien Hirst and the Queen, the subject of shows and celebrations as the Oympics come to London. Cosgrave said that the Bond show will be a good fit with the Games. "The athleticism that runs through the films will be reflected in the show. Think about the stunt that opens The Spy Who Loved Me" - a downhill ski chase which Bond escapes by a parachute emblazoned with the union jack.
The Bond show is an unusually mainstream one for the Barbican, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary. The centre's more typical forthcoming events include a survey of the work of the Bauhaus school and performances of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's five-hour opera Einstein on the Beach.
Nicholas Kenyon, the Barbican's managing director, said the show would "welcome new audiences" to the centre. He said: "The Barbican centre's wide-ranging arts offer includes the best of high-quality design, and there has been no bigger icon of British design style over 50 years than James Bond. From the cutting-edge of our Bauhaus exhibition to the huge popular appeal of Bond, the Barbican is at the forefront of expanding audiences to the arts."
"You can't deny that the Bond films are masterworks of filmmaking," said Cosgrave. "They're blockbusters but they're beautifully designed. There's a cultural context behind it which is right for the Barbican. It's a forum for all sorts of artistic media and our show reflects that."
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