Stanley Kubrick defined 20th century filmmaking. His meticulous approach and innovative techniques set new precedents for screenwriting, direction, and production. Twenty years after his lifetime, Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition honors his enduring dedication to the medium at the Design Museum, London. Open this month, this expansive showcase—featuring more than 700 objects from Kubrick’s life and work—illustrates his notorious, detail-driven vantage and ability to delve wholly into all aspects of film.
With in-depth views into his movies, the show uncovers Kubrick’s hallmark cinematography, ingenuous directorial vision, and the evocative realism of his work. “After traveling for 15 years, the Stanley Kubrick exhibition is finally ‘coming home,’ the place where Kubrick worked and lived for over 40 years,” co-curator Adrienne Groen tells CR. “Focusing on the role of design and Kubrick’s relationship with London, the exhibition allows visitors to wonder through the many worlds he created and to immerse themselves in his process, from the first story to filming and editing.”
The moment viewers enter The Exhibition, they are drawn into Kubrick’s realm. The initial corridor is staged in a “one-point perspective” to echo his signature, long-view technique. Then, his major films are explored in dedicated rooms within the presentation. Among the highlights are a detailed model of the Centrifuge set from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), as well as the movie’s costumes designed by Savile Row tailor and dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II, Hardy Amies. Also shown are 18th century styles from the period piece Barry Lyndon (1975) and the iconic “droog” looks created by Milena Canonero for A Clockwork Orange (1971), a film that in turn spurred its own fashion influence.
Additionally, there are movie graphics and effects throughout the exhibit—including the NASA-devised lenses Kubrick used to film Barry Lyndon by candlelight and the movie poster Saul Bass designed for The Shining (1980), which required more than 400 versions for Kubrick to finalize his selection. Rounding out the visuals are influential photographs from Diane Arbus and sculptures by Allen Jones, whose work inspired the notorious female-figured tables and furniture in A Clockwork Orange. Also featured are a host of film props and set design pieces, alongside contributions from family, friends, and industry peers to lend context to Kubrick’s vision and persona.
The director’s penchant for filmmaking began with early interests in literature, photography, and film. New York-born Kubrick (1928-1999) started his career as a photographer for Look magazine in the 1940s and ‘50s, before turning his full attention to film. Beginning with shorter and smaller budget projects, his first major Hollywood movie was The Killing (1956), which, like many of his works, was the adaptation of a novel. The film received critical acclaim and garnered Kubrick the beginnings of his defining style and reputation—for brilliant film concept and execution and demanding, perfectionist standards.
The following year, Kubrick met his future wife Christiane, who was cast in Paths of Glory (1957) and remained a collaborative presence in his life and films. The director continued work in Hollywood for a few more years, creating recognized movies such as Spartacus (1960) before moving to Hertfordshire, England, which became his lifelong base. His first British productions included Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964), and then his masterworks, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. Kubrick’s final film before his death, Eyes Wide Shut (1999) illustrates the complex interior worlds he created within each work, arguably his most distinctive trait as a filmmaker.
Many of Kubrick’s movies were controversial by nature and initially received mixed reviews—A Clockwork Orange was even pulled from UK theaters due to threats, before later becoming appreciated and nominated for Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA awards. The director’s reputation often preceded him, and he was known for assuming full control over all elements of filmmaking—asking for hundreds of retakes and spending days on end editing. Kubrick is also set apart by his innate gift for telling stories deeply yet abstractly, leaving his films open to vast interpretations and meanings.
Kubrick’s influence looms large in contemporary culture. Later, directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, as well as mavericks including Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, name him as a source of inspiration. Fashion designers also reference the inventive styles and costuming in his films, particularly the ever-imaginative Alexander McQueen. For The Overlook collection of Fall/Winter 1999, the designer cast models in romantic looks inside a giant Lucite snow globe, alluding to the hotel and icy feel of The Shining. The movie also made a fashion cameo in Stuart Vevers’ inaugural collection for Coach with an updated take on the Apollo 11 sweater and ‘70s autumnal palette in Fall/Winter 2014. Then, Barry Lyndon spurred McQueen’s baroque Sarabande collection of Spring/Summer 2007, titled after Handel’s musical piece that was woven throughout the movie.
No Kubrick film however, has provided more fashion impact than A Clockwork Orange. For Fall/Winter 2008 Menswear, Jean Paul Gaultier featured bowlers, suspenders, and edgy leather twists on classic British looks. Then, McQueen took Kubrick’s cue with walking sticks, waistcoats, and even codpieces for Fall/Winter 2009 Menswear. Recently, fashion brand Macson also envisioned droog-styled models in tailored ensembles for its Spring/Summer 2016 campaign, as did Sacai’s Clockwork-slang t-shirts and bovver boots for Menswear in Spring/Summer 2017.
For designers both past and present, Kubrick’s work offers a wonderland of style inspiration. Fashion creators envision collections that are whole worlds within themselves, much like the director’s legendary films. In homage to his innovative spirit, Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition uncovers the many worlds of Kubrick, which will undoubtedly inspire creativity—in film and fashion—yet to come.
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is on view from April 26, 2019 through September 15, 2019 at the Design Museum, London.END
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