Minsheng Art Museum (Bldg F, NO. 570 West Huaihai Road. Changning, Shanghai) Mar 28-June 20, 2013
“My name is Bond, James Bond.”
Good for you, and I like the way you sometimes talk to your cufflinks, but now let me be honest with you: I find you very unpleasant and if you’re patient I’ll tell you why.
Let’s start from something blatant: whenever you enter a room, walking with a swagger and a hand in your pocket, you check out all the girls around you, one by one, like they were old chinaware at a car boot sale. Yet we both know very well that after you’ve selected one, charmed her — probably not with your conversation — and made love to her in some anonymous hotel room, she will either try to strangle you with a necklace or dip a scorpion in your cappuccino. Isn’t this a hint that something is not quite right with your attitude?
“I know something you don’t know,” says the look you serve everyone you meet along with that exasperating smirk, even when you’ve only been asked to pass the salt at the table. Well, what is it that you know exactly? I ask because in the 50 years or so that you’ve been around (happy anniversary by the way) I can’t seem to remember a single concept coming out from your pompously accented mouth, besides your pedantic and frivolous notions on how not to stir a Martini. Is this really all you intend to pass on to posterity? How to shake cocktails?
I’m not sure you should think so highly of yourself, and I don’t mean from the intellectual point of view only — what was the last book you said you read by the way? — I am mostly speaking in ethical and moral terms. No matter how many times you saved your country, the world and so forth, did you stop at least once and feel sorry for the trail of innocent, mediocre, dead people you leave in the wake of your shenanigans? Do the same people who pay for your cars and gadgets also send flowers to the families, along with pre-signed cards reciting: “I’m terribly sorry I accidentally killed your son/daughter/father/mother/brother/sister/other with a stray bullet/car/jet ski/speedboat/bazooka shot/bomb/grenade/other. It was an accident. My most sincere condolences, Bond, James Bond”?
Seriously my man, your life is a narrative that makes the Transformers movies look elaborate. It’s a silly constellation of commercials for half of the existing so-called luxury brands, where you, Bond, James Bond, shine like a seamy, sexist, violent and above all boring Super Mario jammed in a dinner jacket. As you’ve been around for quite some time now, it might be good if you started pondering all this.
This, I defiantly whispered to the James Bond dummy who leans on a silver Aston Martin Db5 in the entrance hall of the Minsheng Art Museum, while waiting for someone to meet me at the front desk and give me my press pass. It helped a lot, I let out all the poison I had in me and, when a girl from the museum came down to show me around, I chirped a very convincing “Thanks! I’m a great fan of James Bond!” and I thoroughly enjoyed strolling with her around the many rooms of this very well made “Agent 007 — 50 Years of Bond Style” exhibition.
Are you, unlike me, fond of Agent 007? Then go see this — I mean it. It is as comprehensive as you would expect, but it is also very well conceived through comparative structures, one of my favorite being a six-screen installation of the title sequences and original soundtracks from all the 24 officially recognized movies of the series.
Every aspect that intrigued you in the saga is presented in the show in a manner that very eloquently suggests both consistency and evolution through time. Thus you’ll find a room dedicated to all of the casino scenes, one for the villains, and one for the M character, a very interesting one dedicated to Ian Fleming, the author of the 007 books and inspiration for the leading character — I know, a tad arrogant but hey. There is even a space dedicated to scenes shot in exotic countries — Orientalist to the point that it also shows material from an episode set in outer space.
In all rooms you will find original props, costumes, screenshots and projections showing montages of significant clips, and there is some quality sketching to be spotted among storyboards and costume designs. Of all, the object that struck me the most was the golden gun from the movie “The Man with the Golden Gun,” which one learns was fashioned out of a lighter, a cigarette box and a pen all glued together.
Finally, confirming the ultimate drive behind the Bond series, you’ll find at the exit an all-comprising gadget bazaar. I didn’t stop much there, but I bet you can find anything from Mr. Hu’s assassin’s bowler’s hat to Pierce Brosnan’s used flip flops. My guide showed me in a corner a special edition set of Globe Trotter suitcases, with prices starting at 20,000 RMB and presumably doubling as motorbikes and flamethrowers.
I left the museum with no desire to watch any more Bond movies than I ever did before (I watched three if I am correct), but with much more respect for the production behind them and without feeling that Randian had robbed me of an hour of my life.