Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons... Tim Burton? Perhaps the well-established film director will become another name associated with the world of pop art. Ron Magliozzi, curator of the MoMA exhibition, seems to think so: "It may be that Tim will rival Warhol when it comes to output and international reputation in the various forms of artistic expression," Magliozzi said, according to The Independent. "Instead of using films to interpret the art, let's use the art to interpret the films. The art is the most important thing. The films are secondary."
But art critic Brian Sewell is dismissive of the notion. "I think curators are ill advised and usually wrong," he said. "I don't think there can ever be another Warhol. There could never be anybody who excels at that skilled merchandising of multiples. There was a small genius there, but I think Tim Burton – I wouldn't believe it of somebody so insignificant. It's a bit like when Paul McCartney's art was compared to Rothko. I think this will be a flash in the pan."
Whatever your thoughts on pop art may be, Burton's work has gathered a lot of interest. In anticipation of the upcoming gigantic Tim Burton art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tim Burton explained some of his artwork. The MoMA exhibition will include over 700 pieces from Burton's personal collection, as well as artifacts from his many films. Burton also made a specially commissioned sculpture for the museum. Here are a couple of samples, with some explanations from the artist/filmmaker himself:
Untitled (Blue Girl with Bouquet) 1992-1999
"I'd just done Batman Returns — after big movies, it's nice to go do something of your own. It was the first time I'd worked with a Polaroid camera, and it was so theatrical. So this person in my office, Leticia Rogers, and the costume designer Colleen Atwood, and I did our own fun photo shoot. I had some drawings I did for my book, and I thought it would be fun to fool around with these in live-action. And a little bit of that turned into the Sally character in The Nightmare Before Christmas."
Untitled (Picasso Woman) 1980-1990
"I used to go to the mall a lot — there's a lot of interesting people to look at, and you could sit there with nobody paying attention to you. I remember having a kind of mind-blowing experience where I was very frustrated drawing, struggling to fit in, and I said, 'Fuck it, I can't. I'm just going to draw the way I'm going to draw.' I had a couple good teachers who told me to just be myself. I didn't worry about physics or reality, and it freed me up to capture the way I saw a person."
The Green Man 1996-1998
Burton described this as a kind of self-portrait and memento mori. It’s about "a feeling of being in a pub in England, thinking about my grandmother who had died, and feeling the connections she had with me." The sharp edges of the triangular blue mask invoke her death in a traumatic accident. The stitching all over the man’s face is "a symbol for the internal, an indicator of a person's different sides and struggle to keep it together." The coat is classic Burton gothicism: "the exact opposite of Southern California," where he incongruously grew up. A stripes are another common trend in Burton's art. "I was depressed and disconnected. I couldn't feel my hands. I bought some striped socks and suddenly felt very connected to the Earth again. I have strange things happen to me."
The artwork displayed is on a variety of surfaces and mediums, ranging from canvas to notebooks to cocktail napkins. "Sometimes these things look like they're just weird," Burton says, "but I don't keep a journal or a diary. They help me to remember a certain feeling—they become time capsules."
Most of the artifacts from the vast exhibition are from Burton's home in Belsize Park in north-west London.
"It's hard for me to fathom, truthfully," he said, "because it's so outside my experience or culture. When they asked me about it I couldn't quite believe it. You feel quite vulnerable when you show a movie and this is even stranger. In a movie things go by quickly, like a moving target. This is like – oh gee. I'm a bit disturbed, really."
Burton also told New York Magazine, "It's like opening up an old closet or something — like 'Oh! What's all this crap?'"
See some of Burton's 'old crap' in 33 slides.
(All images are courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art and Tim Burton.)