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05 December 2016Last updated
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Dubai’s 007 exhibition: A view to a thrill

Want to take a peek into the wonderful world of the super spy James Bond? Head off to the new exhibition at Burj Khalifa’s The Annex, suggests Anand Raj OK

Anand Raj OK
20 Nov 2016 | 09:54 am
  • SKYFALL © 2012 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Quantum of Solace © 2008 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Sean Connery Dr No © 1962 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Madonna and Pierce Brosnan. © 2002 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Zorin (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN) and May Day (GRACE JONES) at the French Chateau.

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  • Copyright Notice - © 1977 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Scaramanga's Golden Gun. Copyright Notice - © 1974 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Oddjob’s hat, Goldfinger © 1964 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved

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  • Miniature model of 'Wet Nellie' the amphibious Lotus Esprit Copyright Notice - © 1977 Danjaq, LLC

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  • Designing 007 – Fifty Years of Bond Style. John Short © The Barbican Centre and EON Productions, 2012.

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Ever wanted to examine Mr Jaws’, erm, jaws, up close and in detail? Or salivate over the Aston Martin DB 10 that Daniel Craig drove into the River Tiber in Spectre? Or admire the golden gun – which was fashioned out of a lighter – that Scaramanga used in The Man With The Golden Gun?

Now you can right here in the UAE.

Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style, an exhibition now on at The Annex, Burj Khalifa, has on display more than 600 items from James Bond movies over the years. Gadgets and gowns, suits and story boards and props – including the fabulous Q-Boat used in The World is Not Enough – will be on display until February 13 next year.

Visitors get a taste of what is to come from the first room where a gold-painted female body lies on a white silk sheet on a circular bed – reminding visitors of the classic scene in Goldfinger where Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson lies sheathed in gold paint from head to toe.

Although this film was the third in the series, ‘I’d say it was Goldfinger that made Bond a pop culture phenomenon,’ says Bronwyn Cosgrove.

She should know. Co-curator of the exhibiition – with Lindy Hemming, who was wardrobe designer in five Bond films, and Eon archivist Meg Simmonds – Brownyn is a fashion historian, film journalist and author who has studied all Bond films in minute detail watching the films over and over again. ‘Every single item in this exhibition,’ she says, ‘has a unique story to tell.’

Bronwyn, who has a strong film background, having produced fashion-related films and documentaries, admits that ‘I tend to think chronologically and that reflects in the show as well. So the first items you see are the gold bars that start the plot of Goldfinger.’

One of the gold bar replicas that was used in the film now sits in a glass box in the exhibition.

The fact that Bronwyn is a fashion journalist first and curator next is reflected in the exhibition that leans a tad heavily on costumes that figure in Bond movies. The Chesterfield coat and hat that Sean Connery sports in Dr No, Roger Moore’s yellow ski suit in The Spy Who Loved Me, Pierce Brosnan’s Brioni suit that he wore while driving a tank in Goldeneye, Grace Jones’ classy dress that she donned while portraying henchwoman May Day in A View to a Kill are just a few of the many costume pieces that hold pride of place in the halls of The Annex.

Bronwyn smiles when I mention the overwhleming costumes on display.

The Bond movies have had a huge influence on style, she says. ‘Do you know how many British tailors have been asked by their clients to make them look like Bond?’ she asks.

Bronwyn’s own passion for all things Bond began in 2002, while writing a feature about women’s costumes in the famous spy’s films. ‘I discovered how there was a particular style of designing that went into creating women’s costumes. The costume designer worked in tandem with a fashion designer; it’s a tradition that continued for over 40 years. I found that really special.’

She researched more and found some Bond costumes in an archive in northern England. ‘I then met with Eon Productions – the UK-based production company which makes the Bond films – and suggested that we should do a show about this. At that time there weren’t a lot of exhibitions about films – there was no Harry Potter or films like that.’

However, it took 10 more years before the exhibition got off the ground.

‘In 2010, Eon with Barbican [the cutting edge British arts and learning organisation] asked us to do a show that was not just on costume but on the entire production design of Bond films – to make it more multimedia and more expansive,’ says Bronwyn.

So what was the biggest challenge putting together an exhibition like this, which has over the years toured the top fashion and cultural capitals including London, Paris, Shanghai, Mexico City, Toronto and Madrid?

‘Sourcing the pieces that we wanted to show the world,’ says Bronwyn. ‘I wanted to tell the stories behind the objects and also give the viewers a hint of the movies’ plots.

‘It wasn’t just about picking up a few things from the archives and displaying it for people to see – that would have been too dry. So I got drawings and storyboards from filmmakers, luxury brands that worked with Bond, crucial and telling footage, the futuristic gadgets used in the film...’

So apart from the mohair and cashmere tuxedo that Craig wore in Quantum of Solace, Connery’s Thunderball shorts or a replica of Ursula Andress’ Dr No bikini, which, incidentally, was fashioned from the actress’ own bra, the exhibition also boasts a clutch of absolutely fantastic gizmos and accessories.

‘Many gadgets used in Bond’s movies were ahead of contemporary technology,’ says Bronwyn.

‘Remember the flip phone that Pierce Brosnan used in Tomorrow Never Dies? The entire flip phone concept came about only the following year.’ The phone is on show here.

‘That awesome stunt sequence that Bond did on a BMW R1200 motorbike through Ho Chi Minh city in the same film? BMW launched it much later.

‘In Die Another Day, Bond escapes bullets while on the Bombardier snowmobile, which was launched commercially only much later.

‘I can go on,’ she says. ‘In From Russia with Love, Bond is given initial instructions about his mission on his pager. In 1963, no one had a pager! Unfortunately, we have not been able to track that down.’

What elevates this exhibition from being just another collection of archived artefacts are the anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories of the movie – some of which are available in catalogues at the entrance.

Offering a lesser-known tidbit about the movie, Bronwyn says: ‘The castle in a dormant volcano in You Only Live Twice was supposed to be on a Japanese island. But when the filmmakers couldn’t find one that suited the bill, they decided to build a set – in England.

‘The set had a movable landing pad for a helicopter and was built so the chopper could actually land through the roof. It was one of the most expensive sets ever built for a Bond movie at the time and cost more than the entire production budget of Dr No. The producer, Ken Adam, was a nervous wreck during the shoot.’ Drawings from the movie are on show.

Gadget lovers will also enjoy viewing the exhibits in the Q Branch section of the exhibition. ‘The piton weapon that Pierce Brosnan used in Goldeneye, drawings of the Bondola, which is actually a gondola that morphed into a hovercraft in Moonraker, among others, are sure to captivate big boys who love toys,’ she says.

‘Then there’s M’s office – a perfect replica of the set used in the movie; the doors and desk are the exact pieces that were used in the film,’ says Bronwyn.

In giving a glimpse into the films of the stylish and gadget savvy Bond, the curators did not forget to give the creator of the character his due. The exhibition has dedicated a room to author Ian Fleming’s personal items, including his typewriter, which takes pride of place in a corner.

‘Fleming lived in London but would travel to Jamaica where his novels are set and write them there in a very short span of time, something like three months,’ reveals the co-curator, pointing to a set of his works displayed in the room.

‘He was perhaps one of the first writers who mentioned clothing details and brands – like Chanel No 5 that Bond women might wear and cars such as the Bentley – in his works. That’s why reading a Bond novel was akin to going on an armchair adventure. You could feel, see and breathe the air of the story’s setting.’

Ian also collaborated closely with the designers in the creation of his book jackets often going to extraordinary lengths with specifics.

Bronwyn shares an anecdote: ‘[Ian] was known to have told his illustrator about a particular shop in London that has the specific kind of sea shell that he wanted on the cover. He wanted that and none else. Another time, he wanted a particular kind of toad on the cover and the artist spent weeks looking for it. He eventually did find it and preserved in a bell jar so he could view it from all angles for the illustration.’

Which is her favourite piece in all of the exhibition?

‘Oh I have too many,’ says Bronwyn. ‘Grace Jones’ costume in a View to a Kill was the most difficult to source. So that’s one favourite. I think the drawings we have are beautiful too.

‘Then there’s the Oscar which Sam Smith won for the theme song theme song The Writing’s on The Wall for Spectre. That is exclusive to Dubai.’

Tickets for ‘Designing 007’ are now available at www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/jamesbond with special packages which include At the Top, Burj Khalifa access, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo entry, or Reel Cinemas James Bond screening tickets also available. The exhibition runs from November 14, 2016 until February 13, 2017.

Anand Raj OK

Anand Raj OK

Features Editor