Marking both the 50th anniversary of Sean Connery’s first screen appearance as the quintessential British spy, and the forthcoming 22nd title in the series, Skyfall, the Barbican’s enormous show is probably the biggest thing to happen to James Bond since he picked up the ’00′ designation.
With the centre’s art gallery currently playing host to the Bauhaus exhibition, the curators have strung the show throughout the Barbican’s ample space. Once you’re past the replica of Sean Connery as 007, standing next to an Aston Martin in a scene from Goldfinger, that graces the Silk Street entrance, much of the exhibition takes place in the Barbican’s Curve gallery, which has been imaginatively transformed into a series of themed zones reflecting different parts of the Bond universe. These include ‘Gold’ (the highlight of which is a lifesize model of Jill Masterson face-down on a bed, her skin painted gold); a section dedicated to Q’s gadgetry; and a recreation of Montenegro’s Casino Royale, whose mirrored opulence and lavish costumes are let down by the (literally) faceless mannequins they hang from.
From the Curve gallery, the exhibition continues to the Fountain Room, dedicated to the countless, macabre villains Bond has encountered over the years, and finally to the Pit Theatre, which has been transformed into an Ice Palace, and showcases Bond’s more frigid escapades. Should you need to refresh en route, there’s also a Martini bar on the first floor.
The sheer amount of material, props, costumes, call sheets and sundry ephemera on offer, from props and costumes to Ken Adams’ distinctive designs, is hugely impressive, and will satisfy both Bond obsessives and casual fans. We’d be amazed if the tiny blue trunks sported by Daniel Craig in his début outing, displayed in a case alongside other swimwear, survives the run.
The only criticism is that the distance between some of the exhibits (particularly the Ice Palace, which is located two floors down) makes for a slightly fragmented experience, although it can be mitigated by taking a detour via that aforementioned Martini bar. Also, while an entry fee of £12 might not be hugely unreasonable given other London attractions, it seems punitive to make Barbican members, who normally receive free entry to exhibitions, pay for this one.
Designing 007 is at the Barbican, Silk Street until 5 September.