Guillermo del Toro at the Mia: Come for the severed hands, stay for the creative doodles

Photo courtesy the Mia. All other images taken by Sheila Regan.

Photo courtesy the Mia. All other images taken by Sheila Regan. Courtesy the Mia

It’s going to be horror-nerd heaven at the Minneapolis Institute of Art when “Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters” opens to the public this Sunday.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters

Minneapolis Institute of Art

The exhibition is made up of his personal collection of curiosities: a syphilitic hand, a giant Frankenstein bust, gothic paintings, weird Victorian contraptions. There's recreations of monsters from his movies, his drawings and notebooks, and objects from Mia selected by the filmmaker to be included. It’s a house of horrors, and most certainly will delight fans of del Toro’s films, which include Pan’s Labrynth, The Devil’s Backbone, and Hellboy.

The exhibition, which has already made its way through Los Angeles and Ontario, aims to illustrate del Toro’s creative process. There are replications, props, costumes, and storyboards from del Toro films, as well as ephemera from other movies that inspired him. A "cabinet of curiosities" theme runs throughout the show, with elements modeled after the filmmaker's workspace/library/museum, which he refers to as "Bleak House."

Del Toro’s elaborate man-cave came together after his wife refused to let him hang a particularly gruesome painting in their kitchen. His Bleak House was created soon after, and is filled with memorabilia, treasures, secret passages, and hidden corridors. The exhibition is modeled after del Toro's setup, and is filled with taxonomy (all fake in the Mia show) and uncannily real life sculptures, including his heroes Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

There are also life-size replicas of the characters from the controversial 1932 film Freaks, which featured real carnival workers who had real physical deformities. Their inclusion in the collection speaks to the darker underside of the cabinet of curiosity aesthetic, originally borne out of 16th century Germany. Historically, curiosities celebrated classification of oddities, science, and art, but they also drummed up a fascination with the “other” -- often meaning cultures other than able-bodied white Europeans.

In del Toro’s "cabinet," the other more often than not looks like the fantastical monsters of his imagination. The inclusion of the Freaks, however, is an un-PC moment. But the figures illuminate del Toro’s desire to create a mirror to society. “It’s more about how we as a society can revile other human beings,” says Gabriel Ritter, curator of contemporary art at Mia.

While the giant monsters, Disney memorabilia, and severed body parts are sure to attract people to the exhibit, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show are del Toro’s personal notes and drawings, which give viewers an inside look at his process. Even if you can’t read Spanish, it’s neat to see an incredibly creative ideas and images that ultimately ended up in his films. The notes, in combination with del Toro’s surrounding inspirations, offer a peek at the inner workings of one of the most elaborately creative directors of our time.


“Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters”
March 5 through May 28
Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis.
Admission to the museum is always free; tickets to this show are $20; $16 members.