The galleries at Mia (Minneapolis Institute of Arts) have taken quite a turn lately—toward the spooky. The museum recently opened a new exhibition inspired by horror/sci-fi/fantasy filmmaker and collector Guillermo del Toro called “At Home with Monsters.” It’s quite over the top by Mia standards, as well as riveting, disturbing, and revelatory. Inspired by del Toro’s self-described “man cave” in the suburbs of Los Angeles, called Bleak House after Dickens’ novel, the exhibition includes objects from his home and expansive personal collection of occult, gothic, monster, fantasy, and horror memorabilia.
Guillermo del Toro and friend at Bleak House
There are images of the foyer of Bleak House, a gothic museum-like, red-walled space festooned with paintings, artwork, and bibelot—not to mention a giant-size face of Frankenstein hanging over the balcony. There’s also a life-size Frankenstein in the exhibition, sharing a tender moment with his bride. Toys, books, Victoriana, comics, movie posters, and film clips from del Toro’s oeuvre (beginning with Cronos (1993) and continuing through The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015) are also part of the show.
One gallery is also a recreation of del Toro’s favorite spot in Bleak House: the Rain Room. The room has a false window and perpetual special efforts that simulate a continuous thunderstorm, which the filmmaker considers the most inspirational atmosphere for creating his work. Not for the faint of heart, or young children, “At Home with Monsters” nonetheless provides probing insights into the creative process of a celebrated filmmaker through, in part, the home he’s fashioned to stimulate his creativity.
Elsewhere at Mia, the rooms are more stately and sedate. Mia’s ongoing “Living Rooms” series places its period rooms in dialogue with the present, in order to engage visitors in invigorating conversations about marginalized people, the role of décor, and changing values. Currently, Mia is offering online ghost stories about paranormal activity in certain rooms in the museum. Tales from the Connecticut Room are particularly, and literally, hair-raising.
The Jane Austen Reading Room is also currently on view. A restyling of the Queen Anne period room, in honor of the 200th birthday of Austen’s novel Emma (1815), the suite of rooms includes the reading room (with books and comfy chairs for visitors to try) and a redone Georgian room where visitors are encouraged to imagine Emma has just stepped away from her painting, reading, and writing. Indisputably, creativity finds inspiration in and expresses its manifestations in a vast array of forms and styles, from the esoteric and haunted to the mannered.
by Camille LeFevre