Review: The Art Gallery of Ontario Presents “Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters” (Sept. 30, 2017 to Jan. 7, 2018)


The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will present the only Canadian appearance of a new exhibition that offers a rare glimpse into the creative process of famed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Organized by the AGO in partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters makes its Canadian debut at the AGO on Sept. 30, 2017 and runs to Jan. 7, 2018.

Co-curated by Britt Salvesen of LACMA, Jim Shedden of the AGO, and Matthew Welch of Mia, Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters brings together elements from del Toro’s films, objects from his vast personal collections and objects from the permanent collections of all three institutions. The diverse range of media featured in this exhibition—including sculpture, paintings, prints, photography, costumes, ancient artifacts, books, maquettes and film—totals approximately 500 objects and reflects the broad and alluring scope of del Toro’s inspirations.

“This exhibition embodies the AGO’s commitment to timely projects that explore the creative imagination in its many forms, across time and place, and will immerse visitors in the fantastic spaces of Guillermo del Toro’s mind,” says Stephanie Smith, the AGO’s Chief Curator. “We are delighted to be organizing this important project and bringing it to our audiences as part of a dynamic exhibition schedule over the coming years.”

“Guillermo del Toro believes that we need monsters,” says Jim Shedden, co-curator and the AGO’s Manager of Publishing. “To him, the imperfections of monsters are found in all of us, whether we see them or not. At the same time, despite his empathy for the tragic monster, del Toro is fascinated with truly terrifying and invulnerable monsters. By witnessing his incredible creative process, we can make unexpected connections among different genres and narratives, high art and pop culture, and blur boundaries between fantasy and reality.”

“To find beauty in the profane. To elevate the banal. To be moved by genre. These things are vital for my storytelling,” says Guillermo del Toro. “This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life. It’s a devotional sampling of the enormous love that is required to create, maintain, and love monsters in our lives.”

The exhibition is organized into eight thematic sections, including:

  • Childhood and Innocence, exploring the central role children often play in del Toro’s films;
  • Victoriana, loosely referencing the Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian ages and latter-day interpretation of the Victorian era;
  • Rain Room, a recreation of a favourite spot in del Toro’s personal residence (“Bleak House”) where he installed a false window with special effects to simulate a perpetual thunderstorm;
  • Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult, exploring the many puzzles, talismans, secret keys and quests for forbidden knowledge that appear in del Toro’s films;
  • Movies, Comics and Pop Culture, delving into the scope of his obsession with cinema, from B-movies and horror films to Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Buñuel;
  • Frankenstein and Horror, revealing del Toro’s lifelong love affair with the tale of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster;
  • Freaks and Monsters, considering del Toro’s fascination with monsters of all types, from those found in horror movies to those in nature, literature, myth and art;
  • Death and the Afterlife, which speaks to the disturbing confrontations with death that del Toro experienced growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the late 1960s and ’70s.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Insight Editions. The 144-page volume is edited by Britt Salvesen, Jim Shedden, and Matthew Welch, with contributions by Guillermo del Toro, Keith McDonald, Roger Clark, and Paul Koudounaris. The hardcover catalogue will be available in shopAGO upon the exhibition’s opening.

This exhibition was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Guillermo del Toro (b. 1964) is one of the most inventive filmmakers of his generation. 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), among many other film, television, and book projects, del Toro has reinvented the genres of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Working with a team of craftsmen, artists, and actors—and referencing a wide range of cinematic, pop-culture, and art-historical sources—del Toro recreates the lucid dreams he experienced as a child in Guadalajara, Mexico. He now works internationally with a cherished home base he calls “Bleak House” in the suburbs of Los Angeles.


What better way to spend Halloween then with Guillermo del Toro at his temporary home at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 7, 2018. Spooky, creepy but brimming with a softness towards outsiders is what del Toro does best.  “At Home with Monsters” is for everyone and will be sure to give you a unique insight into the mind of del Toro and his love of the macabre.

His films like Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim and Pan’s Labyrinth all hold court in the “At Home With Monsters” space. After all, the characters from these films can be likened to del Toro’s own children.  All of del Toro’s character contain an emotional depth that only del Toro can tap into with a wand close to that of a psychotherapist.

We see the bruised human spirit already dripping from children in all of his beautifully curated imagery. One can not help but ache for these characters and feel an urge to want to take their spirit home with us and warm their darkened hearts or perhaps our own.

Rooms to get lost in or better yet dwell in are the Rain Room and the Movies, Comics and Pop Cultures space. The Rain Room is dark and brooding and will invite you close to a wax figure of Edgar Allan Poe as he sits quietly waiting your arrival on a couch with a book in hand.  The room is almost magical as thunder claps and rain illuminate the space and a book shelf protected by chicken wire beckons you to peer in and marvel at vintage texts.

The Movies, Comics and Pop Cultures space contains the most decadent wall of comics that will make a comic book collector swoon. del Toro is a comic book aficionado and his on display collection is only a snapshot into his love of b-movies and the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hell Boy themes.


The costuming from Crimson Peak speaks to del Toro’s ode to Victoriana and the trials and tribulations of repression and the religious fear mongering of the time. The costumes are rich, lacy and providing of up close shots of taffeta and the like that will surely provide a pop up experience to those Crimson Peak fans looking for a Halloween – boo!

The beautiful wood skeleton carvings that encapsulate that of a large wooden like coffin will sure to delight you. If you are celebrating Día de Muertos with your friends and family – ensure you get an up close look at the humour behind this amazing artifact.  The life size monsters that are sprinkled around the space are selfie worthy and dripping with the best kind of darkness.

One can not leave with having a brief dalliance with Frankenstein’s ‘Monster’. The large ‘Monster’ head hung impaled on top of a large wall will beckon you from across the room in a trance.  You may even hear an imaginary cry out from him as you draw closer.  del Toro is keen to remind us to find the beauty in the supposed ‘bad ones’ and perhaps even question – who really are the ‘bad ones’ in our midst.

Frankenstein’s ‘Monster’ continues to appear throughout the “At Home with Monsters” exhibit. The ‘Monster’ at play with a small child, smiling in paintings and even looking his morose self in sculptures.  “At Home with Monsters” does a beautiful job in providing variety, diversity and also an opportunity to truly reflect on our childhood pains, embracing ourselves and perhaps even pondering forgiveness on our terms and time as we inhale Guillermo del Toro’s wonderful portrait into his life and times as more than a Director but a spokesperson for the little guy.

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