Mia is on a roll. From July through September, “Seeing Nature” brought crowds to view gorgeous landscapes on loan from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. November through January’s “Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation” drew more than 100,000 visitors to a show about a theologian. On now, here through May, “Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters” looks like another blockbuster.
The Saturday opening event sold out in a heartbeat, as did a conversation and book signing with del Toro on Sunday. Star power aside — del Toro is an Oscar-winning horror director whose films include “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim” — it’s a fun and fascinating exhibition. You’ll love it if you’re a 14-year-old who’s mad about monsters and comics; you’ll love it if you’re any age and curious about what makes artists tick.
Answering the question “Where does creativity come from?” is the goal of the show, which was born in Mia director Kaywin Feldman’s mind after reading a New Yorker profile about del Toro that described where he works: a second home in Los Angeles he calls “Bleak House,” after the Charles Dickens novel. Overflowing with books, comic books, prints, paintings, action figures, specimens, talismans, sculptures, movie memorabilia and monsters — a giant head of Frankenstein hangs over the entrance hall — it’s literally a house of horrors, and del Toro’s happy place.
Eight galleries at Mia are filled with some 500 objects from Bleak House, interspersed with 40 items from Mia’s collections selected by del Toro, including Chris Mars’ painting “Funeral March for the Minimal Man” and Francis Bacon’s “Study for Portrait VI.” Arranged by themes – “Childhood and Innocence,” “Victoriana,” “Rain Room” (a re-creation of a room in Bleak House that simulates a perpetual thunderstorm), “Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult,” “Movies, Comics, and Pop Culture,” “Frankenstein and Horror,” “Freaks and Monsters,” “Death and the Afterlife” — it’s a tour through the head and heart of a man who identified as an outsider and was bullied as a child.
In creating his personal cabinet of curiosities, del Toro drew no lines between high and low, tchotchkes and rarities. The magnificent and terrifying Angel of Death from “Hellboy II,” which greets you at the start (just beyond an arched entryway bordered by blinking, staring reptilian eyes) is part of the same show that also includes a model of a syphilitic hand. Benign-seeming life-size sculptures of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft share the Target galleries with creepy paintings and grisly drawings. The giant Frankenstein head, likely to be the show’s main selfie destination, joins a small skull clock as an object that captured del Toro’s interest enough that he bought it and brought it home.
Beyond the show-stoppers like the Angel, sculptures of the Faun and the nightmare-inducing Pale Man from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Frankenstein’s head and a tableau of the monster with his bride, the Rain Room and the life-size H.P. Lovecraft, are two types of objects worth tracking down and spending time with.
First, the movie props. Mia’s site curator Gabriel Ritter said that while del Toro uses CGI, he spends half of his salary for each movie on the creation of detailed, realistic-looking props like the ornate golden scarab-shaped device from “Cronos” and the multi-barreled “Big Baby” gun from “Hellboy.”
Second, four of del Toro’s personal notebooks. Normally, Ritter said, del Toro keeps these with him at all times; it must pain him greatly to loan them out, but he did, hand-carrying them to Mia on Friday, where they are now on display in glass cabinets under lock and key. Written in a both English and Spanish, dense with text and drawings, these are windows into del Toro’s mind, the repositories of the inspiration he draws from his collections. You can’t page through them, obviously, but you can swipe through several scanned pages. One that caught our eye begins with a name we never expected to see: Dick Van Dyke. Wonder what that’s about.
“Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters” closes May 28. FMI and tickets. Starting Friday, March 10, as part of the exhibition, Mia will show four films chosen by del Toro: three directed by him, and the 1931 “Frankenstein” starring Boris Karloff. Each will be introduced by a special guest and accompanied by a selection of vintage trailers. FMI and tickets.
Tonight (Tuesday, March 7) at the Convention Center: Free “Welcome to Minneapolis” Concert. The American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) annual conference is in town, and VocalEssence is throwing out the welcome mat with a free concert that is also open to the public. The concert features our own choral stars The Singers led by Matthew Culloton and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers led by Philip Brunelle, a sing-along led by Garrison Keillor (who has quite a bit of practice with those), the ACDA-MN Honor Choir, and music by Minnesota composers Dominick Argento, Timothy Takach, Edie Hill and Rene Clausen. Brunelle will conduct the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but you will need a ticket to get in. Some 15,000 people are expected to attend the conference, so if you hear more than the usual amount of singing on the streets or in the skyways in the next few days, that’s why.
Wednesday at the Trylon: “Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire.” Presented by Sound Unseen and not shown theatrically in the Cities for decades, Tony Palmer’s documentary follows Cohen on his 1972 European concert tour, catching him performing many of his classics (“Suzanne,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “So Long, Marianne”), singing backstage with his band, enduring press interviews and talking about life on the road. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7. $10. Sold out, but some tickets are usually available at the door.
Wednesday at the Dakota: Monty Alexander Trio. Born in Jamaica, Alexander was mixing jazz with reggae and bebop with ska before it was cool to cross over. Discovered by Frank Sinatra in 1962, when Alexander was all of 18, he’s been a working jazz musician ever since, touring relentlessly and releasing dozens of albums as a leader. He has often been called “an American classic,” and it fits. Monte is a master and this will be splendid. He’ll be joined here by Hassan Shakur on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums. 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-$40).
Thursday at the Textile Center: Opening for “Commemorating His Purple Reign: A Textural Tribute to Prince.” Prince-related quilts by 24 quilters around the nation, including members of the Women of Color Quilting Network. The exhibition was juried and curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, a leading authority on African American quilts and quilt-making and founder of the Network. In 2014, the National Endowment for the Arts named her a National Heritage Fellow, the highest award given in the United States for traditional arts. 6-8 p.m. in the Joan Mondale Gallery. Closes April 29. On Saturday (March 11), Mazloomi will present a lecture titled “Building a Legacy: African American Quilt History” at the new HQ of Minnesota Quilters at Recovery Church in St. Paul. This event will also feature jazz performances by Dennis Spears and the Wolverines Jazz Trio. 6 p.m. This is a ticketed event ($30/$25).
Thursday at the University Club of St. Paul: Latvian-Swedish poet Juris Kronbergs. “The crown jewel of the Latvian literary world,” poet and translator Kronbergs is probably best known in the States for his cycle of poems “Wolf One-Eye.” In Latvia, he’s a literary giant whose work includes 16 collections of poetry and 60 books of translations. He’ll be joined by poet Tim Nolan and singer-songwriter Diane Jarvenpa. 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public.