Stanley Kubrick and his Pop Art Connection

I have always thought that Stanley Kubrick was probably the best film director of the twentieth century. His films included The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Image result for Film posters stanley kubrick

Stanley Kubrick had a special relationship with England and particularly London, his primary film location and source of inspiration. I just therefore had to visit the current exhibition which tells the story of Stanley Kubrick the meticulous genius, and explores his unique command of the creative design process of film making, from storytelling to director to editor.

Another reason to visit was that it was being staged at the Design Museum in Kensington High Street, which has recently moved from its former location in Shad Thames, SE1.

The Design Centre in London
The Design Centre in London

The Grade II* listed building was previously the Commonwealth Institute, which had been vacant for over ten years prior to a major refurbishment and transformation by a design team lead by John Pawson, the famous minimalist architect. It is truly a fantastic building.

Stanley Kubrick was originally from the Bronx in New York, but from 1961 until his death in 1999 home became the quiet countryside of Hertfordshire. During this time period London was the backdrop to some of his most iconic scenes, where he morphed the city into something entirely new each time.

The hotel room which the lead character Dr David Bowman enters at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was designed using photos of his suite and other rooms at London’s Dorchester Hotel, where he was staying during filming.

A set in the film 2001:Space Odyssey influenced by a room in The Dorchester

The brutalist architecture of Thamesmead and Southmere Lake in South-East London became the dystopian stomping ground for Alex and his Droogs’ violent tale in A Clockwork Orange.

The Brunel University in Uxbridge, also designed in the brutalist style, was used as the rehabilitation centre for the troubled young man.

Brunel University, Uxbridge
Brunel University, Uxbridge

It was a ‘prop’ featured in A Clockwork Orange that really caught my eye – a table formed of a naked woman.

When Kubrick was working on the ‘Milk Bar’ scene in the film he asked Allen Jones, a famous ‘pop art’ artist, to collaborate as he admired Jones’s sculptures. Jones did some sketches, then raised the subject of money. “I am a very famous film director,” said Kubrick. “This will be seen all over the world and your name will be known”. In other words, the concept of paying writers and other artists in “exposure” rather than money is, sadly, nothing new.

Jones declined, as it would have taken him several months’ work, but allowed Kubrick to copy his style. The tables in the ‘Milk Bar’ are based on Jones’s sketches.

The Milk Bar scene with furniture inspired by Allen Jones
The Milk Bar scene, with furniture inspired by Allen Jones

Allen Jones is still working today and is most associated with the British ‘pop art’ movement of the late 1960’s. Probably his most famous and controversial work, ‘Hatstand, Table and Chair’, was conceived in the late 1960’s when he was living in Chelsea.

Hatstand, table and chair by Allen Jones
Hatstand, table and chair by Allen Jones

The exhibition is on until 15th September 2019 and a visit is a must.

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