On Aug. 1, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) unveiled its newest temporary exhibit – “Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters.” Del Toro, the acclaimed director of films including Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013) and Crimson Peak (2015), loaned hundreds of pieces of original artwork, vintage movie posters and film memorabilia to the LACMA for the three-month-long stint.
The trinkets permanently reside in Del Toro’s “Bleak House,” a property in Los Angeles where the director writes, draws up concept art for characters and seeks inspiration from horror geniuses of the past, like Alfred Hitchcock, Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft (all of whom he owns life-size sculptures of, which can currently be seen at the LACMA).
The LACMA made an evident effort to have the layout of the exhibition reflect that of the Bleak House. Around the showroom are hallways where curators have hung early sketches of Del Toro’s most famous monsters, old photographs from early-20th century freak shows and numerous caricatures of Alfred Hitchcock. Busts of Hitchcock, Lovecraft and Boris Karloff watch you as you roam the aisles, a style reminiscent of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.
Life-size wax figures of famous film characters – both Del Torian and non – are displayed in corners or behind barred windows, as if you’re peering at them in a jail cell. Screens are projected on the walls of the exhibit, displaying different montages of Del Toro’s films. Electronic kiosks are dispersed on the floor, allowing the museum-goer a peek into the director’s journals.
Del Toro’s collection is arranged into eight sections, each exploring a different theme which arises in his film. The first theme is entitled “Childhood and Innocence,” focusing largely on Del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth, which features a young girl as its protagonist.
The second section, “Victoriana,” is garnished with costumes from the thriller Crimson Peak and bugs from one of Del Toro’s earliest works, Mimic (1997).
Next comes the section called “Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult.” Chests of drawers with glass doors line the walls, featuring items like candelabras, skeleton keys and deceased creatures in jars. “Movies, Comics, Pop Culture” feature Del Toro’s impressive collection of movie posters and comic books from around the world.
Perhaps the most personal section is the one entitled “Frankenstein and Horror.” Del Toro’s love for Frankenstein, both the 1931 film and the Mary Shelley novel, originated in his childhood. A seven-foot sculpture of the monster’s face (as played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film adaptation) peers down at museum-goers from a doorway. Two life-size diagrams depicting famous scenes from the 1931 film reside in the exhibit as well – one of Frankenstein’s monster gazing at his bride and the other of makeup artist Jack Pierce painting the skin of Boris Karloff. Frankenstein movie posters and comic books in numerous languages are hung on the walls and displayed in cases for all to admire.
Following the “Frankenstein” section is the collection of posters, sketches and notebook fragments titled “Freaks and Monsters”. Del Toro has had a lifelong love affair with the mysterious creatures that go bump in the night – in an interview with the Los Angeles Times he revealed, “I was attracted to monsters when I was in the crib....I love praising monsters. I love telling people how great and beautiful horror stories can be.” While Del Toro has no shortage of the monsters from his own creation on display (for example, lurking in the corner is a life-size sculpture of “the Pale Man” from Pan’s Labyrinth), he also makes a point to pay tribute to influential freaks and monsters from the past.
Notably, there is a section of the showroom dedicated to Tod Browning’s influential horror film Freaks (1932). Freaks follows the adventures of a group of sideshow performers who have been rejected by society for their deformities and differences – conjoined twins, dwarves and pinheads. Sculptures of some of these characters are on display, along with photographs from early-20th century sideshows.
The final section is titled, “Death and the Afterlife.” While growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s, Del Toro was exposed to death almost constantly – corpses littered the streets and the catacombs beneath churches. Combined with a religious grandmother who taught Del Toro about the Catholic pursuit of the afterlife, the themes of sacrifice and a world after death are often explored in the director’s films.
Whether you’re a Del Toro die-hard or a horror movie fanatic, there is something for everyone in this exhibit. Del Toro’s unique, human-take on monsters makes his collection that much more personal and powerful. If you want a glimpse into Del Toro’s mind, the exhibit runs at the LACMA until Nov. 27, 2016.