Events Production

Reports from Game of Thrones exhibitions and galleries

Northern Ireland has been the location of some recent Thrones-related exhibits. There was the official Game of Thrones exhibit, the Helen Sloan photo gallery and a Will Simpson storyboard/concept art gallery. Nick Larter aka thremnir managed to visit all of them and provides us with reports and some photos.

Will Simpson Gallery

William Simpson is a concept and storyboard artist for Game of Thrones. He will be well known to TitanCon attendees over the years, where he has been a regular guest.

As part of this year’s 2D Northern Ireland Comics Festival, an exhibition of his work was mounted at Derry’s Verbal Arts Centre from May 30th to June 14th. Some of his work on other earlier projects, such as the film City of Ember was also included.

The venue kindly gave me permission to take some photographs, however the incident lighting from the large windows that faced most of the works meant that getting a good picture was often impossible.

The centrepiece of the show was three beautiful full colour drawings, visible in the title shot above. The best was a marvellous rendition of the Battle of Blackwater, full of exotic multi-coloured fire – any Thrones fan would kill for a copy of it – what about a limited edition print HBO? The other two showed a White Walker on horseback and, a little incongruously, Bran riding Summer.

Of the other concept art on display, the most interesting were some pictures clearly from early on, suggesting that maybe flashbacks to Robert’s Rebellion were at some point considered. There was a pair of fantastic drawings of Ned entering the Throne Room. One from behind Ned showed just his arm and dripping sword and in the distance Jaime on the Throne with Aerys dead in from of him. The other was from beside the Throne, showing a distant Ned in the doorway over Aerys’s body with Jaime’s sword arm also in view. I just couldn’t get a decent image, but they made a great diptych.

There was a nice rendition of Rhaegar dead on the Trident (below). His look reminds me a bit of Daario!

Another one showed Robert and Ned in the vaults at Winterfell with the wrapped corpse of Lyanna (below). One imagines this was done while William was still easing into the assignment. The showrunners might have pointed out to the eager artist that she died sixteen years or so before this meeting in the vaults happened and that her name was Lyanna (and not Lysa as in the caption bottom right).

Lastly here’s a concept shot for the White Walkers in the prologue. The golden lights are reflections from the hall, not will-o-the-wisps!

Helen Sloan Gallery

This time I was unable to get permission to take photographs within the gallery; however I took the liberty of snapping the superb Joffrey portrait outside the door.

First thing you notice when you go inside is that none of the photos have captions. It turns out that captions are more necessary than you might think (see below). There is just a short introduction inside the door about the show and about Helen, which gives the cool statistic that the pictures on display were chosen from 300,000 stills!

The show itself had a good few on the iconic images that we’re used to and a good few more ‘behind the scenes’ shots. Since I couldn’t take pics I’m going to describe the five images that caught my eye the most.

  1. A wight in full makeup, with bloody axe, watching on bemusedly as a couple of set dressers move a stuffed mockup of Ghost into place. I’d not seen it before, but I’m told it’s a fan favourite!
  2. A shot, apparently from a different version of the S1 prologue (from the pilot presumably), where Will is on horseback when he finds the dead wildlings and they are not hacked to bits and arranged in geometric patterns.
  3. A seriously badass pic of Beric Dondarrion with flaming sword aloft. I can’t believe that this hasn’t been released somewhere, but I didn’t recall seeing it before.
  4. Ser Dontos in mummery, sitting alone on set looking glum (probably wondering what happened to his story arc).
  5. Jon Arryn dead on a stone floor (again from the pilot I guess). A caption would have helped with this one – I initially thought it was Balon Greyjoy and that I had discovered a big S4 spoiler!

All of the photos on show were superb; one hopes that a weighty picture book will be published in the fullness of time. My only gripe was that despite the adult themes warning at the entrance to the gallery and despite the quota of shots of freshly slit throats spraying arcs of blood that were included, there was not one single tasteful nude shot of either sex on display. As a complete record of the Game of Thrones TV show in all its shades, therefore, the exhibition fell a little short.

Game of Thrones: The Exhibition

The thought that kept coming back to me the most as I explored the Game of Thrones exhibition in Belfast was that I was on a visit to a museum. That, more than anything else should convey the sheer quality and verisimilitude of the objects on display.

Over and above that, it was the work of Michele Clapton, the show’s costume designer, that stood out the most, this because many of the costumes were on open display, rather than in glass cases. You could lean over and have a real good look, breathe them, even cop a sly feel. The attention to detail was at times, extraordinary. Nothing captured this more than the little floral decoration (sowthistle?) on Arya’s costume from Season 1 (right).

There was a good range of weapons on display, but they were all in cases. If a trick was missed it was that some of the swords could have been locked into frames enabling them to be held and lifted (but not swung around) by the visitors ( I visited the Staffordshire Hoard exhibit in Birmingham earlier this year, which had this feature – it worked nicely).

Some other things that stood out were:

  • the big rubber Drogon hanging from the ceiling
  • how small Dany’s costumes were – you just don’t appreciate how petite Emilia must be when Khaleesi fills the screen!
  • Quaithe’s mask in its glass case, indistinguishable from some priceless museum piece culled from an ancient temple somewhere and lovingly restored
  • Sansa’s gloriously creepy doll
  • The snakeskin handle on Stannis’s sword

And in the blooper section:

  • The book labelled one of Tyrion’s, which I would be almost certain was actually one of Shireen’s. The Imp would not have been impressed!
  • The cloth banner map of Westeros with the Reed’s stronghold identified as ‘Greytower Watch’

Overall, the exhibition was very good indeed – there were more things on display than I was expecting and no number of behind-the-scenes videos can adequately convey the level of craftsmanship that has gone into this stuff.

Winter Is Coming: Thanks Nick for the reports and photos! I’m especially intrigued by the concept art of flashbacks to Robert’s Rebellion. I hope we get to see that stuff on screen someday, since a lot of those moments are so fantastically cinematic.


  • Fantastic! thanks so much for using this stuff Winter. Just one small correction to your intro – the William Simpson show was in Derry, not Belfast. I have to mention that as I promised the Verbal Arts Centre people there I would send them a link to this piece once you had it up!

  • arden:
    Did Rhaegar die from the flu? Wheres the caved in chest

    Otherwise nice drawings

    Indeed, I imagined it to be a hell of a lot more violent that that!

  • Grijnwaald,

    Right, maybe it’s just weird but I have a hard time believing Robert just walked away after caving in his chest and didn’t just bash on Rhaegar’s dead body, or his face.

  • arden:

    Right, maybe it’s just weird but I have a hard time believing Robert just walked away after caving in his chest and didn’t just bash on Rhaegar’s dead body, or his face.

    If i remember correctly Robert was wounded in the battle of the trident, (why ned heads to kings landing, Storms End & the TOJ without Robert) maybe the killing blow to Rhaegar was the last time he swung the hammer that day. no evidence to support just trying to explain it away

  • What does ” will-o- the wisps ” mean ? Could not find a translation. *

    Really envy anyone who gets this close to such beautiful production set artistry.
    I hope you whispered a silent prayer for ser Dontos ( captain America ).

    * found it. You meant ” spunkies “. Those I’ve heard of…… gives me goose bumps.

  • WildSeed,

    Will-o-the-wisps are little tiny flames or light that sometimes appear in forests but more often over swamps, bogs and marshes. They seem to flicker and move, receding if you approach them. In some cultures (Celtic cultures being the ones I am most familiar with) they are said to be souls (of the dead, ancestors, something like that).

  • Been a big fan of Will Simpson since encountering his work in British TRANSFORMERS comics when I was about seven years old :) His work on the classic TARGET: 2006 serial was particularly good.

  • How cool! Thanks for the report!

    The picture of Robert and Ned looking at Lyanna’s corpse was certainly interesting–definitely done when the artist was just becoming acquainted with the series!! :) Could you imagine what Robert would have done had he actually seen Lyanna’s corpse? Or more specifically, the evidence of her recent condition? That would have given the entire game away!

  • Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

    yes, that’s what I thought. I questioned ( to myself ) if there was any relation
    to the Wight Walker in the sketch. It was noted in the post , the source of
    lighting in that sketch. When I was very young , eerie glowing points of light were
    known as Spunkies, I have no idea why.

  • Nick Larter:
    Fantastic!thanks so much for using this stuff Winter.Just one small correction to your intro – the William Simpson show was in Derry, not Belfast.I have to mention that as I promised the Verbal Arts Centre people there I would send them a link to this piece once you had it up!

    It was a great post!