For years, we’ve marveled at the boundless imagination of director (and former special make-up effects artist) Guillermo del Toro through his films. Now comes the opportunity to experience his creativity in person. Through Nov. 27, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is presenting Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters.
The exhibit blends elements from del Toro’s films, his personal notebook drawings, his personal collection and about 60 pieces from LACMA’s permanent collection. Approximately 500 unique pieces are on display, including sculptures, paintings, prints, photography, costumes, ancient artifacts, books, maquettes and films.
“Del Toro is particularly suited to a museum context because he is steeped in art and art history,” says Britt Salvesen, curator and department head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings Department at LACMA. “A museum isn’t just a venue or platform for him; it’s a resource.”
The idea of joining forces with del Toro on a large-scale exhibition was on LACMA’s radar as far back as 2014. But it wasn’t the only museum. The Minneapolis Institute of Art, in tandem with the Art Gallery of Ontario, had already approached the filmmaker to create an exhibit. The three museums opted to co-organize. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters will move to the Minneapolis Institute of Art from Feb. 26 through May 21, 2017, and then on to the Art Gallery of Ontario from Sept. 30, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018.
What makes the exhibit unique is the one-of-a-kind items that can be found wherever you turn.
Several of del Toro’s personal notebooks featuring original drawings and handwritten entries are on display. There are also likenesses of artists and writers who have influenced the filmmaker. Thomas Kuebler’s strikingly real, life-sized H.P. Lovecraft statue looms large in one gallery. In another appears Mike Hill’s playful piece depicting Ray Harryhausen being served tea by the miniature skeletons he created for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Close by is an oversized bust of Dick Smith created by Kazuhiro Tsuji. The Angel of Death from Hellboy II: The Golden Army, created by Mike Elizalde and Spectral Motion, greets visitors at the exhibit’s main entrance. Del Toro even included his collection of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines in tribute to Forrest Ackerman.
The exhibit is organized into eight thematic sections. Salvesen and del Toro hit upon this approach after several tours of Bleak House, del Toro’s California home. “Del Toro and I wandered around looking at and talking about various objects,” continues Salvesen. “We agreed that the exhibition should not be chronological, film-by-film, but instead should explore the obsessions that link all the films.”
These include “Childhood and Innocence”, a section created around the central role children play in many of del Toro’s films; “Victoriana,” a collection dedicated to the Romantic, Victorian and Edwardian ages; “The Rain Room,” a piece of trickery involving a fake window and a continuous menacing special effect thunderstorm; “Magic, Alchemy and the Occult,” a gallery filled with puzzles, talismanic devices and secret keys; and “Movies, Comics, Pop Culture,” a gallery dedicated to del Toro’s fascination with all things fanboy. The “Frankenstein and Horror” gallery celebrates Mary Shelley’s creature with an enormous bust of the Frankenstein monster. Also on display is Hill’s life-size recreation of make-up artist Jack Pierce transforming Boris Karloff into the monster.
Rounding out the exhibit is “Freaks and Monsters,” a section celebrating the filmmaker’s love of all creatures great and small, and “Death and the Afterlife,” a gallery that harkens back to del Toro’s childhood in Guadalajara, Mexico and his early memories of confronting death.
More than 14,000 visitors came in July’s opening week alone. “It’s great to see a crowd of all ages responding to things they recognize, like a sculpture of the Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth, and to things that surprise them, like the exhibition soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla,” says Salvesen. “Many people report that their heads are spinning—in a delightful way—even hours after the experience.”