Reconsidering Tim Burton-the Artist

Already recognized as an award-winning visionary director and constant collaborator with Johnny Depp (the pair have made seven films together), little has been made of Tim Burton: the artiste. Sure, he’s made deeply-engrossing versions of everything from Batman to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the upcoming Alice in Wonderland, but considering Burton was originally hired as an animator’s apprentice at Walt Disney, most people don’t recognize the cult following surrounding his concept art. That’s all about to change very quickly.

A unique vision of what his films eventually become, Burton’s concept art from his early films like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice was first exhibited in 1993 at an exhibit at New York’s Pace Gallery alongside directors like Scorsese, Hitchcock, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Welles. But in the age of the internet, Burton’s concept art has become truly prized. Before anything was known about his upcoming take on Alice in Wonderland, Burton’s concept art for the film circulated online. A mix of modern art and comic-book imagery, even his sketches for films that were never made, like his concept for Superman Lives, have found a home online. Now the contemporary art world is about to take notice.


On November 22, New York’s Museum of Modern Art will open a Tim Burton exhibit featuring sketches, concept art, and a career retrospective of the director through three separate galleries. An exhibit of this size showcasing so much of a filmmaker’s artwork in such a prominent space is unprecedented. The exhibit will also coincide with the release of a limited-edition book showcasing Burton’s artwork. Appropriately titled the Art of Tim Burton, the book will feature over 400 pages of artwork, some of which has never been seen before. With what the public has seen so far from Burton’s mind-bending rendition of Alice, the quirky filmmaker could soon become the art world’s new prodigal son.

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