“Mickey: The True Original Exhibition” Opens in New York City

By Taylor Smith 

On view through February 10, “Mickey: The True Original Exhibition” is at 60 10th Avenue in New York City. The 16,000-square-foot space in Chelsea, very close to The High Line, features both nostalgic and modern works from international artists, all of whom are inspired by classic images of the graphic, black-and-white mouse. 

Tickets for this immersive exhibit that families of all ages are sure to enjoy are $38. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. No tickets will be sold at the event venue and must be purchased online at https://bit.ly/2nUQeSc. Tickets are reserved for a specific date and time. It is recommenced that visitors arrive 20 minutes prior to their assigned entry time. Children ages 3 and under do not require a ticket. Plan to give yourself 90 minutes to enjoy all of the artwork. The gift store is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. 

“Mickey: The True Original Exhibition” is timed to coincide with Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday. The quote from Walt Disney — “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it all started with a mouse” — appears several times throughout the exhibition. During the subsequent 90 years, that friendly mouse has generated a universally iconic corporate brand, multiple spin-off characters, and a multibillion-dollar movie and television industry. For many children passing through the exhibit, Mickey is more like a best friend than a piece of art. 

While the exhibit is flashy in a characteristically Disney way, visitors will be struck by the remarkable impact that this cartoon character has had on modern media culture. Much like the Whitney Museum of American Art’s current exhibition, “Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again” (on view through March 31), “Mickey” celebrates the real-life pop art status of the initial black-and-white ink drawing. 

Many of the modern-day artists who contributed to the exhibit have their own personal childhood connection with Mickey Mouse. For example, the exhibit’s curator, Darren Romanelli, remarks that “Disneyland was my happy place.” He was also inspired by the prevalence of Disney characters within the fashion culture of Japan. 

Interestingly, the original Mickey (seen in the film clips from Steamboat Willie), was quite the rascal. In an attempt to impress Minnie Mouse, he pulls the tail of a cat, strangles a goose’s neck, and turns a set of cow’s teeth into a musical instrument. However, as time passed, the image of Mickey softened into something much more cheerful and lighthearted. These later images were often accompanied by Mickey’s gang of loyal friends, including Goofy and Donald Duck. 

Lastly, not to be missed is the Fantasia room. Here, artist Oliver Clegg has generated a more melancholic view of the apprentice sorcerer who is simply overwhelmed with his cleaning duties. The oil painting on reclaimed wood shows the sorcerer’s robe, shoes, and gloves laying on the cold floor, as if the Mouse has disappeared all-together. 

At the close of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, it seems almost fitting to celebrate a character that is at once a corporate emblem and a childish rogue.