This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Currently one of their special exhibitions is Tim Burton. Now I have been waiting to see this exhibition since it arrived in NYC. The last time I was in the city they were sold out for time slots that I was able to go to, so this time I hoped that I would be able to get a ticket. We arrived at the museum and were told that with a membership you could walk into the exhibition at anytime, PERFECT! As we made out way up to the second floor I could only imagine what was in store for me. We walked down the first hallway leading in where we were met with about a dozen television screens playing one of Burton’s earlier short films. Each video loop would begin a few seconds after the one prior so that if you walked into the hallway in the middle of the film you could just make you way down a bit farther and start it from the beginning.
The hallway was a dark blue color that, in my opinion, helped to set the tone for the exhibition. If you know Tim Burton you know that his works are beautifully dark. Walking into this darker environment put you into that mindset with which to proceed through the rest of the show.
The next room we walked into was completely black with black lighting causing the artwork and sculptures to glow. It reminded me of the Haunted House in Disneyland, which is fitting as Burton worked at the Disney animation studio for a good portion of his career. In this room we saw images that were unfamiliar long with images like “Oogie Boogie” from the The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In all honesty it was like reliving my childhood a bit. Up until this point I had thought that this was a great way to set up the exhibition, it sort of put you into the world of Tim Burton, the way he sees it. After I had seen all the pieces in this room we moved on into the meat of the show. I was a little overwhelmed to say the least. There were hundreds of people slowly circulation throughout the small rooms that were covered with sketches. This basically chronicled and catalogued his life as an artist, from sketches, to paintings, to films.
While all of his artwork is phenomenal and fantastic it was too much in a small space surrounded by too many people. I felt rushed trying to see everything, while not holding up a line and not being shoved out of the way. Perhaps if I had been there on a Wednesday and not a Saturday it would have been a much different experience. As far as content is concerned the show was phenomenal. The first part was filled with sketches that have never been seen before, early ideas and stories that Burton developed while growing up in Burbank California. We get to see short films that he made as well, some are a kind of mixed media, with people, and sketches, and photography combined to create a story. One film in particular, Hansel and Gretel, which was a Disney movie that many have never seen, characterizes his style fantastically. As I was watching this particular film long with about 75 other audience members I realized that I had indeed seen this movie when I as very young but had never known it was a Burton film. This biggest room of the exhibition and the largest is filled with his more popular works, life size models of movie characters, storyboard sketches of many of his animation movies, as well as smaller figures from various films. To be surrounded by, in my opinion, the genius of Tim Burton was amazing. However, as I said before it may have been too much for such a small space. It was a little overwhelming at times, but I can understand being a curator it would be difficult to decide what to include and what to leave out, as I am sure there were many things that had to be left out in the end. The purpose of the show was to compile the life and works of Tim Burton into one show, and in this regard MoMA succeeded.