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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

'DESIGNING AN EMPIRE - THE JOHN MOLLO ARCHIVE' - THE UK BONHAMS AUCTION

A blending of Arthurian wizard and Samurai warrior takes shape with John Mollo's memorable costume design for Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi - Star Wars 1977.

Despite hard work and best intentions, one of the key traps that a lot of science fiction/fantasy movies and TV series filmmakers would fall into, especially during the sixties and seventies, would be the way that the futuristic clothing worn by their storytelling artists rapidly looked dated and more indicative of the time they were made than they did in reflecting their advanced period status. Not so with the ever enduring Star Wars saga, however, as writer/creator George Lucas immediately saw this inherent problem and was determined it wouldn't happen inside his own cinematic fantasy adventure, cleverly making the costumes of his galaxy far, far away look simple yet subtly sophisticated and inspiring, whilst also devising a clear-cut and relatable visual path for audiences of all ages to identify its near-archetypal heroes and villains transplanted to a new realm.

John Mollo (kneeling) works on an early fitting for Luke Skywalker's costume (with Patrick Ginter) - early 1976. Image: Kurtz/Joiner Archive.

Whilst Ralph McQuarrie was one of the key conceptual artists involved with the look of the characters (from Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader) and their costumes, the ultimate journey in bringing those designs to practical, adapted life on screen fell to the expert hands of the original Star Wars (and its first sequel) Costume Designer: John Mollo. Already an established advisory figure on epic historical productions within the British movie industry by the mid-seventies, coming from a prestigious family which had a long interest and passion for military uniform history, Mollo soon proved the perfect man for the epic vision of Lucas, especially when dealing with the bulk costumes needed for the saga's Rebellion and Empire. Rising above the film's relatively low budget, the resourceful talent was also blessed with a keen eye for what worked on screen and what didn't, quickly establishing a trusting relationship (and easy creative shorthand) with the understated American director and the brash young cast whom he'd costume during the long hot Summer of 1976.

Darth Vader and his assembled military forces, as seen in Mollo's work for The Empire Strikes Back in 1979/80.

One of the many meticulous and colourful Mollo costume design page pieces for Star Wars, under the hammer at Bonhams this month. Image: via BONHAMS.

Mollo sadly passed away during the saga's Fortieth Anniversary in 2017, but the treasure trove legacy of his work- the many stunning and meticulously detailed costume design books, sketches and production notes of his incredible career (not just his Oscar-winning Star Wars work, but other hit films like FOX's subsequent sci-fi horror Alien, the prestigious Richard Attenborough production of Gandhi, and Stanley Kubrick's lush Barry Lyndon), as well as as many military history related gems - are to be auctioned off at the prestigious Bonhams of London on December 11th, 2018, for what will surely be a very exciting event.

Good luck to all the bidders!


More on the Bonhams event - Designing an Empire - The John Mollo Archive:

Official event details and special preview times:
https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25245/

Official video for the auction:
https://www.bonhams.com/video/27092/

One of Mollo's stunning pre-production sketches for Princess Leia, also on auction at Bonhams.

Online articles:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6451789/Sketchbooks-belonging-Star-Wars-costume-designer-hammer-300-000.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/arts/design/star-wars-john-mollo-sketches-auction.html

AFICIONADO was in attendance at the London press launch. Image: Bonhams via Instagram.

6/12/18 UPDATE: BONHAMS Press Launch:
https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/other/star-wars-costumes-sketchbooks-seen-fetching-large-sums-at-auction/ar-BBQAA2G

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