At the Gallery : Guillermo del Toro – At Home with Monsters

The “Guillermo del Toro : At Home with Monsters” exhibition currently on at the AGO contains hundreds of pieces borrowed from filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s personal collection of props, artworks and artifacts, plus some relevant items from other sources, selected with his input.

To be more specific, there are over 500 of his things to see, and more than a thousand comic books on loan from The Beguiling, some of which you can actually touch and leaf through. Additionally, the gallery has pulled some art from their own collection to compliment his monster-related belongings. All together, this show offers visitors to the gallery an intense and spine-tingling experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

Given the decidedly spooky content, it was a fortunate coincidence that the exhibition was on in Toronto over Halloween, after finishing runs in Los Angeles and Minneapolis. From what I understand (based on this interview with del Toro) we are lucky that it made it here. Apparently, the show was originally meant to travel to more cities around the world, however, the artist has changed his mind about that — he misses his irreplaceable items too much to be parted from them for a longer period of time, so Toronto is apparently the last stop for “At Home with Monsters”. It will be here until January 7, 2018.

Once home again in the new year, these things will be reunited with the 10,000+ pieces that were not included in the show. What we see at the gallery is a “drop in the bucket” — his total collection is so vast that it is usually set out at his LA home-base, two houses combined that he calls “Bleak House” (named after a Dicken’s novel). Even though he has plenty left at home, in regards to what is on loan to the gallery, he is quoted as stating, “It’s maybe 10 per cent of what is in the house. The house still looks very full but, to me, a shelf that has books on it without having action figures too is an empty shelf!”

Having seen the show on Thursday, with Nick and a group of other local blog creators and their guests, I can report that fans of all things eerie are fortunate that Guillermo del Toro has let us see his treasures!

The show was co-curated by three people, one from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, one from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Jim Shedden from the AGO, who took us on a guided tour.

Take a look at some of what is there …

^ A welcoming wave given by Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth ^

^ Costumes from del Toro’s movie Pacific Rim. ^

^ There are these large display cabinets throughout (eight of them, if I’m remembering correctly) housing an assortment of curiosities. ^

^ Me with Mother’s Ghost from Crimson Peak. I was just telling her that I’d be seeing her in action soon, as my name is on the list to borrow the movie from the library. Scary movie night at our place, coming up! ^

^ Gorgeous costumes and set pieces from Crimson Peak. ^

Guillermo del Toro has a “Rain Room” at Bleak House, where there seems to be a continual rainstorm outside. It has a dimly lit window with drops falling on it and shadows of trees, moving as though being blown by a storm, behind it. del Toro says it’s his favourite place to work and he hangs out in it often.

^ They replicated the Rain Room at the gallery, complete with the sound of a perpetual rainstorm. They included the window, and a life-size model of Edgar Allan Poe seated beside it. ^

^ This room also includes a wall of rare old books, moved from the gallery’s library in The Grange (That’s Toronto’s oldest brick house still standing, and is part of the gallery. I previously wrote about that house including a picture of the library in this post). While the books belong to the AGO, many are duplicates of ones that fill the shelves of the 13 different library rooms back at Bleak House. On the right is a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. ^

^ Right: On one wall of the Rain Room are animation cells from the 1953 short film based on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 poem, The Tell-Tale Heart. You can watch that film on Youtube here. It’s about 7 minutes long and you can clearly see these cells in it.

Left: Animation cells from Disney films, hanging in the adjacent room. About Disney, del Toro says : “Walt Disney, to me, is one of the great storytellers of childhood tales. He has a lot of darkness in him. Consider Snow White’s jealous queen, who sends her huntsman to kill the young princess, carve out her heart and bring it back to the kingdom in an ornate box.” ^

^ Master Maquette from The Strain. ^

^ Satyr from Pan’s Labyrinth, and a drawing by Canadian artist John Scott, which comes from The AGO’s collection. ^

^ “Escape” by Emilie Steele. ^

^ Someone plays music from del Toro’s films on the piano during regular viewing hours. ^

^ Left: Model and Painting of American horror fiction writer, HP Lovecraft. Right : One shelf of a display case. Nick was happy to see the books, Man, Myth and Magic, as he read them all as a kid. Note the oval shaped gold thing and if you have a minute check out this snippet from del Toro’s feature length debut, Cronos here. ^

^ del Toro collects things associated with films he has made and also films he admires. On the right is the actual mask from the 1974 musical “Phantom of The Paradise.”

^ Costumes and props from the films, Hellboy and Hellboy II, created by artist-writer Mike Mignola and made into two movies by del Toro. ^

^ There’s an area dedicated to comics, where two walls are lined with plastic covered comics that are too precious to touch. However, there are also baskets of original comic books and graphic novels that visitors are welcome to look at. ^

^ What?! ^

There is a neat interactive component in the show — four of Guillermo del Toro’s actual notebooks are displayed behind glass, but there are tablets with all the pages loaded on them, so you can “look through” his books.

I can’t find the quote right now, but I saw somewhere that Frankenstein is Guillermo del Toro’s favourite monster. This is reflected by the number of pieces dedicated to him.

^ This handmade book by Margaret Atwood was interesting. It’s one of the first things she published, releasing a limited number of “Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein” in 1966. Today, only fourteen copies remain, each worth about $6,000. I think this might belong to the AGO. ^

^ This seven foot tall sculpture of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein usually hangs right at the entrance of del Toro’s Bleak House. ^

^ AGO Curator of the Toronto version of “At Home with Monsters”, Jim Shedden. ^

As mentioned, there are over 500 pieces in this show, so my pictures only include a fraction of what’s there. If you’re in the city, I hope you’ll go and experience this unique exhibit yourself. I already have a ticket to see it again with my friend Meghan, who will also be seeing it for a second time! I guess you can say that we’re at home with monsters.

Thanks for reading,
xo loulou

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