Toonseum's 'Art of 007' exhibit captures the style of James Bond
For more than 60 years, the name of James Bond has been synonymous with danger, espionage and intrigue. In dozens of films and countless novels, as well as in radio plays, comic strips and television shows, the Secret Intelligence Service agent known best by his number, 007, has faced down every manner of global threat with a comforting combination of gadgetry, cleverness and wit.
Over the decades, the unique sense of style associated with James Bond has been expressed through the visual shorthand provided by illustration and graphic design.
“The Art of 007” — a new exhibit at the Toonseum, timed to coincide with the release of James Bond's latest film adventure, “Spectre” — presents a retrospective of James Bond posters, illustrations and other graphic ephemera.
The exhibit was made possible by guest curator Daniel Herman, whose publishing company, Hermes Press, specializes in archival reprints of comics and books on various facets of pop culture, including “James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007.”
To supply artwork for the exhibit, Herman drew from his own extensive collection. It is a collection long in the making.
“I think my first love was probably movie posters,” he says. “I started collecting them in the early '70s. So, when you collect movie posters, you collect James Bond movie posters. Those were the neatest ones.”
In addition to relatively common items, such as theater cards and pocket-sized paperbacks, “The Art of 007” offers rarities that allow the viewer to see how James Bond was portrayed in foreign markets. Take, for example, the French movie poster for “Dr. No,” illustrated by an iconic poster artist, the late Boris Grinnson.
“French movie posters were very different from American movie posters,” Herman says. “They're more akin to traditional illustration. They really didn't use a lot of modern graphic design like they did in the '50s and '60s in the United States, where you had Saul Bass doing movie posters, for instance, which were pure graphic design.”
In addition to promotional artwork, the exhibit offers pieces that illustrate James Bond's impact on pop culture, such as original artwork from Mad Magazine by Mort Drucker and a never-published cover of The Saturday Evening Post by the late Guy Deel. Through this unusual combination of material, “The Art of 007” shows how great a role graphics have played in making James Bond such an enduring figure in the canon of pop culture.
Ian Thomas is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.