A collection of James Bond art - including rare posters and marketing materials - opened last month in Essen, Germany...

50 Years of Film Posters

6th December 2012

To mark the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series, the German Poster Museum at Museum Folkwang is showing in eight thematic sections around 200 posters and photographs connected with the world's most popular secret agent. 1962 saw the first movie, 2012 sees the launch of the new film "Skyfall". Over the years James Bond films have become comprehensive cultural and historical documents and an important part of Pop culture. Posters and photographs reflect the way that concepts of the future and social values have changed. One special feature of the exhibition: numerous original designs including rejected original poster art works that have hardly been seen previously.

The collection on display belongs to German Bond fan Thomas Nixdorf. The longtime collector tells MI6 how he "always wanted to do a Bond poster and art exhibition in an appropriate location. The Folkwang Museum has an excellent reputation, great new architecture and is the only poster museum in Germany. When they contacted me in 2009 I had to say 'yes'."

"My rarest poster certainly is the unapproved German "Thunderball" 1-Sheet, which is in the exhibtion," Nixdorf continued. "some of the 007 artwork highlights in my collection are the Goozee final artworks for "Moonraker" and the Roger [Moore] and Grace [Jones] 'back to back' painting [for "A View To A Kill"] which also is in the exhibition."

Above: Photo copyright 2012 Jens Nober.

The gentleman
Secret agent 007 is smart, cosmopolitan, sets store by good clothes and good manners and is an epicurean by nature. He can recognize the vintage and brands of wines by their taste, is not averse to champagne, and has smoked a cigar or two. He moves with confidence in diplomatic circles and is well read as regards the things that concern his job - at least this was the case until Daniel Craig became 007. Now everything has become somewhat rougher, the English gentleman with the touch of self-irony has morphed into a roughneck you should take seriously - a different type of man with a new image, who is to be had for a beer rather than a Martini - shaken not stirred.

The villain
What would Bond be without his enemies? And of course, the matter at stake must be world domination, otherwise you would not need James Bond. First, the Cold War was employed as a backdrop, but with the political demise of socialism his "natural" enemies were lost, and new ones were needed. Now the rogues are to be found in other areas such as the media or amongst raw material producers.

Above: Photo copyright 2012 Jens Nober.

Generally speaking, Bond's opponents operate from places similar to medieval fortresses and which, following a supposed victory, are intended to act as the nerve centre for their domination of the world. These spaces are usually larger-than-life, gigantic and sophisticated. An underwater city, an enormous tanker, a space station, anything is possible. Yet thanks to Bond's intervention, all this sophisticated architecture is reduced to rubble, putting an end once and for all to the rogue's megalomaniacal dream - at least until the next movie.

Bond can only prevail over his well-prepared opponents armed to the teeth if his own equipment works even better and he masters it perfectly. There are no limits to the imagination, the laws of physics are occasionally reinterpreted, there seems to be a limitless supply of energy. In this respect Bond comes close to the science-fiction genre. But scientific facts are also always included. For example, in the film Moonraker (1979) the space shuttle was already flying although it did not actually take off until 1981.

It stands to reason that the conflicts between "Good and Bad" are not free of violence. Violence has an influence on Bond, and he uses it against his enemies. Every conceivable form of violence appears; it is directed against people as well as objects, often in extremely spectacular fashion, but is often so exaggerated that the actual cruelty of it loses its horror through self-irony.

Above: Photo copyright 2012 Jens Nober.

It is amazing how the idea of eroticism in the films has altered over the course of 50 years. Initially, all women succumb to Bond's charm, seemingly quite automatically, while later they become more independent and more confident, and only in the course of the story does eroticism become a factor of the action, and Bond is not always in control of the situation.

Offshoots and parodies / product placement
The posters and photographs belonging directly to the films are complemented by works addressing Ian Fleming's literary models in different ways. Product placement was part of the films' marketing strategies from the very start - examples of this are also on show.

The posters are accompanied by numerous photographs ranging from press photos and film stills to more private shots depicting actors and crew, for example, during their work on set or during breaks in shooting. Many of the photographs have not been previously published.

"Bond, ...James Bond: Fifty Years of film posters and photographs" is currently on display at the Museum Folkwang at Museumsplatz 1, 45128 Essen, Germany, Tue to Sun 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri 10 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. An exhibition brochure is available to order from Amazon.de.

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