I must admit I've never really warmed to Mickey Mouse. Kind of a whiny little fucker, isn't he? And don't get me started on Disney! That said, Mickey: The True Original Exhibition, a celebration of the iconic rodent's 90th birthday in one of those massive pop-up spaces in the Meatpacking District, is well-designed, well-curated (by Darren Romanelli), and actually quite... interesting and delightful?
More than yet another Instagram funhouse (though there certainly are ample opportunities for selfies and such), the show takes you on a chronological journey through Mickey's entire history. Did you know that the cartoon mouse's public debut, Steamboat Willie, was first screened at the Colony Theater on Broadway? And that it was actually the rodent's second movie? The first was called Plane Crazy, but Walt didn't release it until a year after Willie, in 1929. I didn't know any of that. Nor really any of the little tidbits of history scattered throughout the sprawling exhibition. In fact, a lot of this feels like an exhibition you might see at the Museum of Moving Image, but with an even bigger budget.
The heart of this Mickey show is the art, a collection of contemporary and older works by the likes of Daniel Arsham, London Kaye, PEACEMINUSONE, Oliver Clegg, and a commissioned, borderline-psycho mural by Katherine Bernhardt. There's video from Tetsuya Nomura, a couple of cool spacial illusions by Ariana Papademetropoulos, and a club banger from Magnus the Magnus to get things started.
Keith Haring's Mickey was a nice surprise to come across along the way, as were the series of photos by Tseng Kwong Chi, Haring's longtime friend and semi-official documenter. Also in this room is clear evidence that Romanelli wasn't afraid of being less than family-friendly here, with Keiichi Tanaami's acid-trip of a painting featuring a very naked Minnie. And don't miss Kenny Scharf's Cosmic Cavern behind a curtain near the gift shop.
But the best part of the exhibition might be right at the end, a generous selection of Mickey memorabilia from Disney's vast archives, which offers a fascinating look at the evolution of product and graphic design over the last 90 years. Actually, the best part of the show might be the Ample Hills counter in the Mickey Mouse Club Room, where you're served a small cup of two flavors created especially for the occasion, Confetti Celebration and Triple Chocolate Surprise, both very sweet and loaded with birthday cake.
Mickey: The True Original Exhibition is located at 60 Tenth Avenue, taking up the entire block between 14th and 15th Streets. The show opens today and runs through February 10th, and tickets, sold in timed-entry blocks, cost $38. The organizers say you should plan on spending about 90 minutes inside. This coming weekend is completely sold out.