Movieum, MOMI and South Bank film centre

The Telegraph website ran this item on the Movieum of London today:

Back in the picture with The Movieum

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 01/03/2008

As a new film museum opens, Sheila Johnston asks whether it will find an audience

For years, London has been without a film museum. Now it has one, the Movieum, which opened its doors at County Hall last week. But is it the collection that the capital needs?

The Movieum is the invention of Jonathan Sands, a buoyant impresario in the Barnum & Bailey tradition. Sands, 35, ran a prop-hire company for many years. It was, in his own words, a bit of a “rag and bone” operation, but it enabled him to amass a hoard of movie memorabilia.

This provides around 50 per cent of the Movieum exhibits; the rest was donated. He did not seek outside funding.

At the press view, County Hall did indeed look a lot like Steptoe’s junkyard, but by opening time it had smartened up greatly, while retaining a weird, slightly ramshackle quality. In the central atrium, a Dalek jockeys for position with the golden spacesuit from Sunshine, Judge Dredd’s motorbike and the oversized pillar box from The Borrowers.

Nearby, a Mini from The Italian Job, loaded with bullion, is parked near a Chaplin impersonator, a Star Wars installation and the original Rank gong (it is fibreglass and, sadly, does not go “BONG”).

Michael Keaton’s Batman outfit faces off against Joaquin Phoenix’s faux leather breastplate from Gladiator and Christopher Reeve’s Superman suit. The latter is, Sands says, his prized possession.

There are also visual displays and interactive elements, but for many visitors the focus will be these holy relics and fetish objects. The show’s charm lies in its sense of a personal passion; it makes no claim to being comprehensive.

The collection celebrates the British film industry exclusively and does not extend back much before the 1950s. But it is open – and Sands expects it will remain so, since he has the premises on a 25-year lease.

The popular Museum of the Moving Image on a nearby site closed in 1999 to a tremendous public outcry. Anthony Smith, who helped set up Momi while Director of the British Film Institute, is still angry about its demise.

“It is a folly for which generations of BFI governors may hang their heads in shame,” he said last week.

“The Movieum is a nice addition to London – and a larger reproach.” There is now talk of a BFI Film Centre, incorporating a museum. The institute’s chairman, Greg Dyke, says it will emphasise digital material rather than artifacts. But it will not be ready before 2013. The site and the funding are yet to be settled.

One might assume that Sands – who also produced last year’s Star Wars exhibition at County Hall – would be needing a rest. Not so. This week he was in Paris, planning a Movieum near the Eiffel Tower. In June the London gallery hosts a retrospective of items from the Stanley Kubrick estate and in the summer he is off to Tokyo to talk about a Japanese outpost.

He is certainly persuasive. Listening to him, you almost believe a man might fly.

One thought on “Movieum, MOMI and South Bank film centre

  1. The Movieum certainly sounds a bit rubbish. But some people need to get their heads around the fact that the Museum of the Moving Image really wasn’t all that, either. It was patronisingly didactic, in the form of one single linear History of Film from which one could not deviate, rather like the showroom in an IKEA. The actors were always slightly embarrassing for anyone over the age of five, and the whole thing had a built-in limited lifespan due to the lack of space to extend the scope of official film history. In its latter years it got rather embarrassing pretending that the history of movie special effects ended with Superman.Investment could have saved it, sure. But is a museum the best way to educate people about moving image these days? Maybe a movie museum is now the kind of concept only suitable for that awkwardly tacky space in County Hall where Saatchi also made a circus out of contemporary art. Workshops, screenings and practical education programmes can all take place without the infrastructure and overhead of a collection that all ends up looking like it should be on the walls of a Hard Rock Cafe somewhere.

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