Atop a hill on Sutter Street in San Francisco, an eager crowd gathers in a small, inconspicuous room dressed in costumes ranging from a tube sock-masked fox to an oceanographer in a red beanie and blue track suit. It is Halloween and the opening reception night for “Bad Dads,” an annual tribute to Wes Anderson at Spoke Art gallery.
Cozily housing a collection of works inspired by Anderson films “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and beyond, the exhibition possesses a playful air of cult, bringing together fanatics of Wes Anderson in a ceremony of subcultural solidarity. With contributions from more than 80 artists, the room displays like an intricate scrapbook with each subtle detail waiting to be inspected.
This year’s fifth-annual exhibition now contains works based on Wes Anderson’s most recent film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which was released earlier this year. Its muted pastel color scheme of purple and pink percolates several of the wall’s hanging prints. The gallery’s emphasis on the newest Anderson film is most apparent in the window display, where a charming prop arrangement of Mendl’s pastry boxes and Courtesan au Chocolat sculptures sits on a flour-dusted tabletop. Supplementing the Budapest-themed display are two multitextured portraits of Zero and Agatha in the form of hanging banners, accessorized by gold chains and tassels.
Artists’ renditions of other familiar characters in their signature attire are spread in an assortment on the walls of the Spoke gallery. More than a few portraits depict a stoic-faced Margot Tenenbaum styling a bob haircut, Suzy Bishop in a pink mod dress and Agatha with a birthmark in the shape of Mexico on her cheek.
Additionally, pedestals scattered around the room display a variety of 3-D works. One holds a paper diorama of the train interior from “The Darjeeling Limited,” containing miniature pieces of J.L.W.-initialed luggage. Another carries a mixed-media sculpture of Mr. Fox — adorably detailed with goggles, a bitten apple and his checkered bike — accompanied by a mountain backdrop of equally small-scale pinned behind him. Also inspired by “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a homemade collection of “Bean’s Alcoholic Cider,” an available beverage for visitors at $6 a bottle.
At the other corner of the room sits a sterling silver ring inspired by “Moonrise Kingdom” encased in a glass dome. The ring contains a collage of symbols from the film, such as Suzy’s binoculars, Sam’s glasses, left-handed scissors and more. Along a similar parameter of wearable collectibles, a visitor can even buy a pair of Zissou-inspired Adidas sneakers — with its iconic blue stripes and yellow shoelaces — for $150.
There is an inherent lightheartedness within Wes Anderson films that discerns the exhibit from what is typically expected at an art show. There is hardly any pressure to interpret the emotional subconscious of a work of art in solemn silence when the piece is a framed $5 bill with Bill Murray inked over the face of Abraham Lincoln. Adapting the wit, quirk and novelty charm of Wes Anderson’s filmmaking style, each print and object induces genuine appreciation while simultaneously stopping the viewer from taking what he or she sees too seriously. As such, it is hard to suspect pretense behind a humorous embroidery of a hotel lobby boy standing before a painting of two ladies spread-eagle.
On first impression, some may be disenchanted by the underwhelming size of the room and the diminutive pieces on display. But the collective dynamism of the work at “Bad Dads” ultimately proves itself beyond scale. The redeeming element of the show is in fact its smallness, as each subtle component demands to be seen. A close inspection can bring you to a patisserie in the Alps, a campsite on Chickchaw Indian Territory or even aboard the Belafonte in search of an elusive jaguar shark. This exhibition will certainly spark as much as a daydream.
“Bad Dads” is on display at Spoke Art gallery until Nov. 22.