Asteroid City exhibition immerses visitors in Wes Anderson’s film sets


An exhibition of the 1950s sets, props, miniature models, costumes and artwork used in Wes Anderson‘s latest film Asteroid City has opened at 180 The Strand in London.

The exhibition was designed to immerse visitors in the film’s fictitious world – a desert town in 1950s America famous for its meteor crater and celestial observatory.

Exterior sign post for the Asteroid City exhibition at 180 The Strand
The exhibition is on display at London’s 180 The Strand

Its aim was to give visitors insight into the “1950s Americana world the film is set in”, said Asteroid City associate producer Ben Alder.

Asteroid City was filmed on flat farmland in Spain, with the buildings made for the film set up to appear like a town.

A model train on a rail track
The exhibition features large sets

“Everything you see in the film was physically built and laid out in a way that gave the actors and crew the sense of living in this real town,” Alder told Dezeen.

“The exhibition is a great way for people to see how much work went into all the elements of the film, like the costumes, because you can spend more time looking at how they are made and how much care went into them.”

Three character costumes in the Asteroid City film arranged around a desert patch with wooden shacks in the background
Film sets used in the Asteroid City movie are on display

Pieces in the exhibition are spread across three main spaces, with audio clips and parts of the film projected onto walls referencing scenes relevant to the nearby displays.

“The idea was to use the largest open space for the sets to give people the sense of how big they were on the film, and you can imagine how massive our Asteroid City town was,” said Alder.

Film costumes and props displayed at the Asteroid City exhibition
Costumes and props are on display

“Then there’s another space that’s a more traditional gallery-type curation where you can see smaller objects and props, going into the details of the characters,” Alder continued.

Mimicking the exterior of the cafe featured in the film, a temporary wooden structure decorated with menu lettering and a desert scene spans the entrance of 180 The Strand.

Sets displayed in the exhibition include white wooden residential shacks, a train carriage and a bathroom scene.

Other life-sized scenery props include telephone booths, billboard posters and humourous vending machines that dispense martinis and bullets in the film.

A row of colourful vending machines as part of a film set
The exhibition provides a close-up view of the Asteroid City film props

“There are moments where visitors are invited to be in the sets and interact with them,” said Alder.

“Not only can visitors see all the pieces from the film really closely but they can go inside some of the sets – they can sit inside the train compartment, recreate the scene with [actor] Scarlett [Johansson] in the window, or go into the telephone booth – which is something really special that not a lot of exhibitions have.”

Asteroid City exhibition with a model train and cactus
Visitors can explore a desert set

Some of the character costumes are arranged together with set pieces to recreate scenes from the film.

Also on display are puppets made by Andy Gent, who previously created puppets for Anderson’s films Isle of Dogs and Fantastic Mr Fox, and a series of glass flowers used in a stop-motion animation sequence where they transition from blooming to wilting.

Interior of a 1950s-style diner with a chalk board menu
The Asteroid City exhibition showcases many details from the film

The exhibition ends with a recreation of a luncheonette featured in the movie, where visitors can order food and drink.

It has a 1950s-style decor, with stools lined up along the service bar, pastel-coloured blinds and the image of a desert landscape framed inside fake windows.

1950s diner film set with square brown floor tiles and steel stools along the service bar
A 1950s-style cafe is at the end of the exhibition

Asteroid City is out in cinemas now.

Anderson is known for his distinctive film aesthetic, typified by retro influences and pastel colours. Interiors that have been informed by the director’s style include a pastel-yellow breakfast cafe in Sweden and a bottle shop in Los Angeles with mid-century influences.

The photography is courtesy of Universal Pictures and 180 Studios.

The Asteroid City exhibition is on display at 180 The Strand in London from 17 June to 8 July 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.


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