We sat down with Adrienne Groen, curator of the new Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum, to discover more about the life and work of the famous film director – and why London was so essential to him and his films.
The exhibition has been touring since 2004. Why did you bring it to the Design Museum?
The story goes that Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and executive producer, was talking to Alan Yentob (a friend of Kubrick) at St Pancras station about the exhibition. Coincidentally, Yentob bumped into Deyan Sudjic (director of the Design Museum) a few minutes later. He said yes straight away. This year marks 20 years since Kubrick died, so it’s a beautiful moment to stop and see what he and his work means to us still.
Have you changed the content at all?
We decided to tell the story of his processes – how he made his films and the different designers he worked with, from Saul Bass to Hardy Amies. We felt it was important to tell his personal story, a little about the man behind Kubrick the director. The exhibition has a huge inventory of over 500 objects, and we added some additional material from the Stanley Kubrick Archive, too. We wanted to relate the exhibition to London and the film locations he used.
What’s the most interesting thing you discovered when curating the exhibition?
I hadn’t realised the scale of his archive and materials, and how precise he was in his filmmaking. When he sent people out location-scouting, they would take hundreds, if not thousands of photographs. He was also always looking for the most up-to-date technology. In The Shining, he was the first director use a Steadicam extensively, and he also used lenses developed for NASA for filming by candlelight in Barry Lyndon.
Why is Stanley Kubrick still influential?
All his films are of a different genre, but they also define and defy that genre. The Shining is a horror film, but it’s different to others. Being able to make films in all those genres, but still have the Kubrick stamp, is very special. It’s been 20 years since his last film (Eyes Wide Shut), but his work is still very much part of the cultural conversation.
What will people take away? You can see how ingrained design was in everything Kubrick did. You’ll have dived into the mind of a visionary, you’ll have a different point of view on how a Kubrick film was made, and discovering how he filmed in London will change how you see the city.
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is at the Design Museum 26 April to 15 September