The West Coast Debut at the Skirball Cultural Center

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Nick Hsu

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Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, 1963, tempera on paper, 9 ¾x 22”, ©The Maurice Sendak Foundation

Making its West Coast premiere at the Skirball Cultural Center, Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak unfolds as a grand celebration of the legacy of Jewish-American artist Maurice Sendak, who passed away in 2012. Esteemed for his seminal contributions to children’s literature—most notably Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), and Outside Over There (1980)—this exhibition offers an unprecedented look at Sendak's oeuvre from April 18th to September 1st.

Showcasing over 150 original sketches, storyboards, and paintings, it spans his illustrious work for celebrated titles like Randall Jarrell's The Bat-Poet, Ruth Krauss's A Hole is to Dig, the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik, and Isaac Bashevis Singer's Zlateh the Goat. Marking the most extensive and comprehensive retrospective of Sendak's art since his passing, this exhibition is a pivotal moment in art and literature.

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, 1963, watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 11” ©TheMaurice Sendak Foundation
Maurice Sendak, Mockup for the Cover of Nutshell Library, 1962, ink and tempera, 10 3/8 x 81/8”©The Maurice Sendak Foundation

Sendak famously asserted, "I refused to lie to children," channeling his inner child to craft narratives filled with monsters that, while seemingly daunting, served to embolden children—inspiring them to embrace self-assurance and joy in the face of life’s complexities and flawed adults. His art transcends the boundaries of age and culture, drawing from the rich legacies of Mozart, Herman Melville, and William Shakespeare to influence a vast audience.

Beyond his beloved books, the exhibition delves into Sendak's diverse talents, featuring opera sets, intimate portraits, archival family photographs, and even toys designed in his early adulthood. This presentation enriches our understanding of Sendak’s multifaceted life—his roots as the child of Jewish immigrants, his adoration for Romantic music and art, his collaborations with cultural luminaries—and provides a comprehensive view of his impact on American culture.

Maurice Sendak, Higglety, Pigglety, Pop!, 1967, ink on paper, 11 ½ x 9”©The Maurice Sendak Foundation

Curated by Jonathan Weinberg, Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak invites the public into its magical realm starting April 18, 2024, and will continue to captivate visitors at the Skirball Cultural Center until September 1, 2024. This exhibition is not merely a showcase but a voyage into the heart of Sendak's imagination, promising to awaken the wild things in us all. You can find tickets here.

Maurice Sendak, Design for the Poster of Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! Opera, Glyndebourne Production, 1985, watercolor on paper, 33 ½ x 23 ½” ©The MauriceSendak Foundation
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Maurice Sendak, Wild Things Are Happening, Art Exhibition, Skirball Cultural Center, Art