By Lory Diaz
Torontonicity was recently invited to attend a curatorial tour of the AGO’s featured exhibit of creative film genius Guillermo del Toro with co-curator Jim Shedden. The exhibit, formally titled Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, is a partnership project with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It invites guests to take a peak into the inspiration, recurring themes, and influences that have shaped the famed director’s signature style.
Most major exhibits contain a select number of artifacts and pieces, but this exhibit is quite extensive, which sets it apart in many ways from the traditional gallery show. At Home with Monsters contains four hundred items, as well as forty-five hundred books, magazines, and comics. This is an astounding number of items to gather and organize. For this reason, the exhibition may require more time than is usually allotted for a visit. I would say to give yourself an extra hour, at least.
The exhibit starts with a small introduction to the early influences of del Toro and childhood innocence, which include Disney stills and drawings. It very quickly moves into Victoriana and the feature film, Crimson Peak, which is a visually striking film that took seven months just for colour correction! Three of the beautifully detailed costumes from the movie are featured in this section, and deserve to be viewed from multiple angles. Make sure to check out the detailing from different sides, as you’ll really notice the textures and tones in the fabrics.
There’s a small doorway directly beside the Crimson Peak area that houses the Rain Room. This is a space that del Toro himself has in his home, and is set up as a formal study or meditation space. The simulated rain invites guests to take a moment, sit on the benches, and appreciate the looming tranquility. I believe it captures del Toro’s style perfectly, as his works exist somewhere between the realms of darkness, intrigue, fear, and fascination.
The next area focuses on death and the after life. The space features the character of Death from Hellboy II, that is a fan favourite despite appearing in only one scene in the entire movie. My favourite feature of this room is the storyboard drawings to the right of Death, as the small notations around each scene give you a peak into other artists and works that have influenced del Toro. A true joy for any cinephile.
As you turn the corner, you’re presented with the full-size figure of the Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth. Shedden described him as quite grotesque, but his details are what capture guests and keep them in the space. A lot of people will say that the Pale Man is their favourite character, including myself, but seeing how many of the Faun’s details were inspired by nature and wild growth completely won me over.
The Lovecraft Room follows, and the focus of this area is alchemy, magic, and the occult. The small space features a live pianist that plays 19th century romantic music that sounds in the same vein as del Toro’s film soundtracks. Shedden said that the figure of Lovecraft is surrounded by books found in his personal libraries, intended to make him feel at home in the space.
We then move through a short connecting hall that leads into an area dedicated to the theme of outsiders. This area focuses on two films: Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks, and del Toro’s 2004 Hellboy. I have to admit that prior to this exhibit, Hellboy was not my favourite del Toro film, but Shedden and the curatorial team did such a fantastic job of presenting this film and its major themes within the context of life as an outsider that it completely won me over.
The area that follows is probably one of the most striking displays I have seen in quite some time and is a collaboration between Shedden and Toronto’s own comic mecca, The Beguiling. Two gallery walls have been lined with an impressive amount of classic and contemporary comics from floor to ceiling, and immediately invites guests to try and find their favourite covers. This might be the most popular selfie room at the AGO right now, and is absolutely worth visiting in person.
We move to the final space, and the exhibit ends with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. We’re informed that this beautifully tragic tale is one of del Toro’s favourite monsters, and one of his directorial goals for the future. The group stays here for quite some time discussing inspiration and influences with the Curator, and it becomes abundantly clear that this exhibit is a sincere passion project for everyone involved.
Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters will be at the AGO until January 7, 2018. Whether you’re a movie-lover, a supporter of the arts, or a parent with curious children, I would absolutely encourage you to visit this exhibit because there is something for everyone. I have already been twice since the opening, and plan on going back, as I’m sure there are details that deserve a closer look. If you’ve already seen the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at Art Gallery of Ontario, let us know in the comments what you thought of the exhibit and what some of your favourite features were!