"JK Rowling was absolutely fantastic": Graphic Art of Harry Potter exhibition opens in London

By Ben Miller | 10 June 2016

The design duo behind some of the most recognisable artworks from the Harry Potter series have opened an exhibition of their work in Soho. From a work experience shift to films and theme parks, it's been quite an adventure

Eduardo Lima and Miraphora Mina, of MinaLima© Megan Taylor
The world’s newest display on Harry Potter might also be its most unusual. A Soho house with a touch of the supernatural about it has been visited by thousands of people since The Graphic Art of the Harry Potter Films exhibition opened last week, showing a particular interest in three rooms of maps, book covers, props and even a printing press producing copies of Potter periodical the Daily Prophet.

“The top floor is my favourite,” says Eduardo Lima. “The floor is very wonky. Nothing’s straight up there. They have old floorboards.

“We had to work hard to hang all the works straight because there aren’t any straight walls. It was a mess before we came here, we had to paint everything.

A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
“It’s like one of those old English houses which from the outside looks big but is tiny inside. But that’s the fun thing. It’s a big part of the exhibition.”

Since getting the keys three weeks ago, Lima and the other half of MinaLima, Miraphora Mina, have turned this transient space (where beer and confectionary companies recently held pop-ups) into a three-storey survey of their 15-year partnership, including more than a decade working on the Harry Potter series, for whom they are now a licensee.

“They loved it because they liked the idea of a more high-end project,” Lima says of Warner Bros. “We’ve been going to conventions. They have an annual celebration in Orlando. It’s fantastic to know that we have inspired, in some way, little kids to work in graphic design.

A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
“The first time we had to do a talk was at this Harry Potter convention in Chicago for 2,000 people. We went to this big auditorium place and thought, ‘what are we doing?’

“Usually people who work behind the cameras don’t get that much attention, it’s about the actors. But they stopped asking questions about Daniel and Emma and Rupert because they know everything about them.

“They were very curious about how much time the process to get everything ready took, what our inspirations for the wanted poster or the Marauders’ Map were, and things you don’t really see in the film but are in the background.

A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
“People don’t realise that graphic designers are hired to do that. Now it’s fine, I can speak to anyone. Me and Mira, we’re going to be 90 years old and talking about Harry Potter. People go crazy and clap when you talk about that.”

In this house, a giant version of the map is spread across one of the floors. “We did the map for Orlando and it was so well-received we decided to do it again,” says Lima.

“People love it. The comments are amazing. People say we made their childhood more colourful.

A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
“I want to try to put a camera here for when they go to the Harry Potter section of the exhibition, because their faces go into this massive big smile. It’s fantastic.”

Some of MinaLima’s other projects, including their wittily charming illustrated nouns, are also featured in a house which could lead to a permanent gallery elsewhere in London. Their own studio, ten minutes away, has been a busy one ahead of the next film, Fantastic Beasts and where to find Them, set to be released in November.

“It’s been great to go back to the wizarding world but this time it’s a bit different because it’s in American in the 1920s. When you create a prop for a film you don’t do just one, you have to do at least ten.

A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
“Once, I was working at home doing some Marauders’ Maps and Harry Potter 3 was on the telly. I was like, ‘hold on, I’m doing a Marauders’ Map in my living room while I’m watching the film?’”

Mina was originally asked to lead the art department for “a new film about a young wizard”, about which the production designer had been yet to read the script. She agreed to take the role for a few months, and Lima, who had moved to London from Brazil and been introduced to Mina through a mutual friend, joined her for an hour of work experience a week during the creation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

“I never left,” he says. “As long as you are good and smiley and work hard it’s fine. It was a like a big family on the film. JK Rowling was absolutely fantastic, really. She insisted the props needed to be made in the UK. We used to call the studio Hogwarts because you came out like an amazing wizard. A lot of us went there when we were very young and left as very good professionals.”

A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
Lima, who has also worked on films including Sweeney Todd and The Golden Compass, says he realised the project would be “massive” around the time the Goblet of Fire was released in 2005.

“Every time it’s a new challenge. We’d never worked on a theme park before. We’d never done a book design for the real world. It’s fun.” Stuart Craig, the set designer on all eight films so far, has already popped in.

“We love him very much,” says Lima. “He came here to visit so we gave him a tour and he gave us his approval. He said it was A-plus.”

  • The Graphic Art of the Harry Potter Films is at the House of Minalima, 26 Greek Street, London until February 2017.

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A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
The illustrated collective noun prints celebrate the joyful eccentricities of the English language© House of Mina
A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© Megan Taylor
A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© House of Mina
A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© House of Mina
A photo of various artefacts from a Harry Potter exhibition in London's Soho
© House of Mina
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