Opening Night of Guillermo del Toro’s AT HOME WITH MONSTERS Exhibit
Collecting Classic Monsters HQ is located in the heartland of the U.S. And while that means not having the abundance of film memorabilia events that our friends in say Los Angeles or New York, we seem to make up for that in quality. This weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending one such quality event, the opening night gala of Guillermo del Toro‘s exhibit At Home With Monsters at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
“The exhibition reveals the creative process behind del Toro’s singular vision by bringing together elements from his films, objects from his vast personal collections, and drawings from his notebooks, alongside objects del Toro has selected from Mia’s permanent collection.”
While this quote from the MIA press release explains who del Toro is and what this exhibit is about, Monster Kids need no introduction to the filmmaker or his famed Bleak House, the suburban Los Angeles house that serves as his studio and permanent repository of his collection.
Join me now, as we take a virtual tour of Guillermo del Toro’s At Home with Monster...if you dare….
“To find beauty in the profane. To elevate the banal. To be moved by genre. These things are vital for my storytelling. This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life. It’s a devotional sampling of the enormous love that is required to create, maintain, and love the monsters in our lives.”
Guillermo del Toro
Upon passing through the impressive exhibit entrance way (featured in the videos above), we entered into this large room and were greeted by the life-size Angel of Death from del Toro’s Hell Boy 2: The Golden Army
A video introduction by Guillermo explains that his Bleak House holds every book he has every owned. This includes the first book he ever purchased, a horror anthology edited by Forrest J Ackerman, whom del Toro calls his ‘spiritual mentor’ and whose Acker Mansion was the inspiration for del Toro’s Bleak House. (I filmed this in the exhibit, it is very hard to hear, but you should be able to read the subtitles across the screen):
Click on the image below to read it:
The exhibit is organized into eight thematic sections, and I’ve included images from most of the categories below:
- Childhood and Innocence, exploring the central role children play in many of del Toro’s films;
If you ever needed proof that del Toro is a true member of the fraternity we call “Monster Kid,” this picture should suffice. Note a 10 year-old boy, in self-made monster makeup, terrorizing a willing victim. Could be anyone (and everyone) who reads this blog. In this 1973 image, we have Guillermo playing the monster and his sister Susan playing the victim
Paintings were prominently featured throughout the exhibit and include original art from his films as well as collected art such as this 1993 Basil Gogos portrait of Boris Karloff as The Monster:
Further evidence of the shared experience of Monster Kids growing up in the 1960s and 70s, Guillermo has collected original and concept art from the films that most inspired him in childhood. Here. original concept art for the Walt Disney animated classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
Passing into the next themed collection,
- Victoriana, which loosely references the Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian ages, as well as latter-day interpretations of the Victorian era;
Victorian-styled portraits of Warren Publishing’s iconic horror hosts, Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie
- Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult, exploring the many puzzles, talismans, secret keys, and quests for forbidden knowledge that appear in del Toro’s films;
Incredible original art from Disney’s seminal classic FANTASIA.
- Rain Room, a recreation of a favorite spot in Bleak House, the suburban Los Angeles home that houses del Toro’s personal collection, featuring a false window and special effects to simulate a perpetual thunderstorm—the best atmosphere for del Toro’s creative process;
Throughout the exhibit, we encounter life-size and life-like figures from del Toro’s films and history. Here, in the Rain Room, Edgar Allen Poe sits and reflects on whatever horrors fill his mind. So incredibly lifelike, I doubt I would sleep well should I ever have the opportunity to spend the night in Bleak House. He didn’t move at least…while I was watching.
- Movies, Comics, and Pop Culture, delving into the scope of del Toro’s obsession with comic books and cinema, from B-movies and horror films to works by directors Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Buñuel;
- Click image below to read it:
My pace quickened, and smile broadened, as I entered this phase of the exhibit. There is little I love more than monster magazines and comic books of my childhood. Since Guillermo and I are of the same generation, our childhood experiences are once again shared. Two walls lined with vintage copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Where Monsters Dwell and so much more:
I lingered here for a long time, relishing the nostalgia of these books, many…most?..of which I have in my personal collection still. My sense of kinship with a fellow collector was strong as I stood among this display and seeing these books treated as works of art was moving. Of course, we know they are art in the truest sense, but watching other exhibit patrons take them in in all their pop culture glory made me feel a sense of pride — even ownership– in these reflections of my childhood experience.
When I finally urged myself to move forward, I was greeted by even more; including this gorgeous Basil Gogos portrait of the Metaluna Mutant:
And this spellbinding painting titled “Ray Harryhausen: Master of Fantasy” by Daniel Horne:
- Frankenstein and Horror, revealing del Toro’s lifelong love affair with the tale of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster;
The Frankenstein Monster was a common thread throughout the exhibited del Toro’s affection for this most misunderstood of monsters is obvious. From Gogos portraits, to life size figures from Bride of Frankenstein, the Universal Studios version was everywhere:
But other master works were present, including original art from Bernie Wrightson‘s classic FRANKENSTEIN:
Attending the opening night gala and being among the first to see At Home With Monsters at MIA was a real treat. I took my time (and walked the exhibit multiple times), but I still feel like I didn’t see everything because there is a lot to see in this exhibit.
It’s true that parts of the exhibit, such as the Victoriana room, didn’t connect with me. But that simply shows how personal this exhibit is to del Toro. Every collector is drawn to things for personal reasons and they don’t have to be justified to be meaningful. This is a very personal look at one of our most talented artists and yet every Monster Kid who visits will feel a deep sense of the familiar and a kinship with one of our own. I assure you, this Monster Kid is already planning my repeat visit and I highly recommend you make every effort to see it while you can!