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Rare props and artifacts from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on display at MOMI

By Jeff Spry

May Update: Due to the effects of the pandemic last year, the Museum of the Moving Image closed the building in March 2020, but it has now reopened with this Envisioning 2001 exhibition extended through September 27, 2021! 

Stanley Kubrick's magnum opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey, has stood the test of time as one of the most provocative pieces of cinematic art ever to be experienced, and anyone who has seen it screened in its original 70mm widescreen format remains forever affected by its existential themes, technological predictions, and mind-warping special effects.

As a continuation of its landmark 50th anniversary in 2018, Queens' Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) is presenting an incredible exhibition of the seminal masterpiece's production props, concept art, filming miniatures, and screen-used costumes in a special six-month show titled Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey.

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This must-see exhibition explores Kubrick’s myriad influences, his fanatical research, and his pioneering production process in projecting a remarkably accurate prediction of the future seen through the lens of the 1960s. Running from Jan. 18 to July 19, the stimulating show abounds in rare, original 2001 artifacts culled from international collections and from the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London, as well as the museum’s own impressive specimens.

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"The exhibition is coming to us from the Deutsches Film Institute and Film Museum in Frankfurt," MoMI curator Barbara Miller tells SYFY WIRE. "That institution tours this large, comprehensive exhibition about the work of Stanley Kubrick and has been touring around the world for the last 15 years. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, they took that section, amplified it a bit, and created a standalone exhibition that focused on 2001. When they created this smaller version we thought it was fantastic timing.  It's such a great fit for us, we show the film annually, and the architecture of our expanded building is inspired by the film and we're really excited to have it here."

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Throughout its entire run at MoMI, Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey can be paired with a range of enticing side offerings like matinee screenings, public programs with guest speakers, themed workshops, exclusive tours, private events, and much more. For tickets to the exhibit or more info, visit the official MoMI site HERE.

Among some of the highlights visitors will be treated to include Special Photographic Effects Supervisor Douglas Trumbull’s Clavius Base concept sketches; authentic costumes such as a spacesuit worn in the Clavius Base scene and actor Dan Richter's Moonwatcher ape suit used in the stirring Dawn of Man scene; and actual storyboards, contact sheets, test films, and photographs related to the ultra-trippy Stargate special effects sequence.

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For Miller, the allure of the film is the way 2001 all comes together in terms of storytelling.

"Some of the iconic props are great, obviously the Star Child is amazing to see in person, and the costumes are fantastic," she notes. "But I hope for our visitors, they feel like they're going on this journey of exploration to get a sense of what the inspirations were for the film and what Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's unusual working methods were, and the incredible amount of research Kubrick and his team did to depict a very specific future. They worked with many scientists of the day, designers, and major American brands, to ask what will your products, your machines look like 35 years ahead." 

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"Previous science fiction films of the time were rudimentary at best, and Kubrick was very critical of them," Miller explains. "They were not only not taking special effects where they needed to go, but they were not engaging these big questions of are we alone in the universe, what is the role of humankind, these questions that felt very relevant at the time as humans were taking their first steps into outer space.

"There's an excellence to the filmmaking, a physical beauty you're engaging with when watching that defies easy explanation. But there's also the open-endedness the film leaves you with. You're invited to make your own meaning of it, which at first was a point of criticism. At its core it acknowledges that the answers to the questions posed in the film are not answerable. There is no one truth to it, and at the end of the day that's what keeps bringing people back."

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