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Skirball Cultural Center

Explore the exclusive West Coast display of the largest and most complete exhibition of Jewish artist Maurice Sendak’s sixty-year career! Comprised of over 150 artifacts—including original paintings, drawings, videos, and objects—this landmark exhibition showcases the depth and breadth of his creativity. 

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Admission

BUY/RESERVE NOW

OR

BUY/RESERVE NOW WITH NOAH'S ARK TIMED ENTRY

$18 General 
$13 Seniors, Full-Time Students with ID, and Children 2–17
FREE to Members and Children under 2 
FREE to all on Thursdays

General Admission tickets provide visitors access to all exhibitions on view at the Skirball, including Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak. Visitors who would like to board Noah’s Ark, which requires timed entry, should purchase a separate Noah's Ark ticket (which also includes general admission access).

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About the Exhibition

Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak celebrates the work of Jewish American artist Maurice Sendak, creator of the acclaimed children’s books Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), and Outside Over There (1980). Organized by The Columbus Museum of Art, where it premiered in October 2022, it is the first major Sendak retrospective since his death in 2012, and the largest and most complete exhibition of his work to date. 

Wild Things Are Happening is comprised of more than 150 sketches, storyboards, and paintings by Sendak drawn from the collection of The Maurice Sendak Foundation. Presented alongside landmark pictures for Sendak’s own books will be examples of artwork he created for such celebrated publications as The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik, and Zlateh the Goat by Isaac Bashevis Singer. 

Designs for many of Sendak’s opera, theater, film, and television productions are also featured. His impact on the broader world of the performing arts is illuminated through his collaboration and friendship with directors, composers, playwrights, and visual artists, such as Carroll Ballard, Frank Corsaro, Spike Jonze, Tony Kushner, and Twyla Tharp. The exhibition will also highlight Sendak’s love of Mozart and the way the composer’s life and work influenced not only Sendak’s designs for Mozart’s operas, such as The Magic Flute, but also key books including Outside Over There and Dear Mili. As Sendak stated, “I love opera beyond anything, and Mozart beyond anything.”

This groundbreaking exhibition also adds new depth to audiences’ understanding of Sendak’s life—as a child of Jewish immigrants, a lover of music, someone with close personal relationships—and how it dovetailed with his creative work, which drew inspiration from writers ranging from William Shakespeare to Herman Melville. From portraits that he made of loved ones to archival photographs of family members to toys he designed as a young adult, the exhibition brings Sendak and his work to life in three dimensions.


Docent-led public tours are offered every day at 1:00 pm from May 23–September 1, with an additional 11:00 am tour on Saturdays and Sundays.

Docent-led private tours are offered on select days and times from May 31–August 18. To book a private tour, email groupvisits@skirball.org or call (310) 440-4534 for more information. 


Wild Things Are Happening—Story Time

Where the Wild Things Are watercolor on paper

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, 1963, watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 11” ©The Maurice Sendak Foundation 

Beginning April 18: Every Thursday–Sunday at 3:00 pm (except Sun, Apr 28)

Listen to some of Maurice Sendak’s most memorable stories in a cozy reading room in the exhibition.

Curatorial Acknowledgments

Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak is guest-curated by Dr. Jonathan Weinberg, artist, and Curator of The Maurice Sendak Foundation. Weinberg also edited the lavishly illustrated catalog that brings together a diversity of perspectives, including Sendak’s own words about his career and a major essay by distinguished art historian Thomas Crow. Both the book and the exhibition are notable for their scope, their focus on Sendak’s emulation of other artists, and the role played by art history in his creative process. As Sendak himself said, “if there must be more to life, then it is surely what art provides.” In this spirit the retrospective highlights the relationship of Sendak’s pictures to the art that he collected and loved including works by William Blake, Walt Disney, Winsor McCay, George Stubbs, Beatrix Potter, and Philipp Otto Runge.

Wild Things Are Happening is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art in conjunction with The Maurice Sendak Foundation. Cate Thurston and Sarah Daymude are the Skirball Cultural Center’s managing curators of this exhibition.

About the Artist

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) was born in Brooklyn, New York, a year before the Great Depression began, to Jewish immigrant parents. He has described his childhood as an unhappy one as he was often sick and confined to his bed. Additionally, the loss of his entire extended family in Poland to the Holocaust weighed heavily on him. These experiences suffused his creative work and gave voice to a radical reality that broke with the conventions of the time— that for many, childhood can be difficult. This idea is exemplified through Sendak’s most famous protagonist, Max, from Where the Wild Things Are. There, Max takes refuge from his mother's anger in a dream world of his imagination where he is King of the Wild Things.

“I refuse to lie to children,” Sendak told an interviewer, and as a result his work has connected with generations of people across the globe who saw pieces of themselves in his art. In Sendak’s world of monsters, potentially anxious challenges, and imperfect adults, the heroes just happen to be children who manage to find joy and confidence within themselves. Sendak is the most honored picture book artist in history. His many awards include the Caldecott Medal, The Hans Christian Anderson Award, and the National Medal of Arts. 

Donor Support

Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak exhibition and its related educational programs at the Skirball Cultural Center are made possible through the generous support of:

Pamela and Jeffrey Balton
Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation
The Keston Family
U.S. Bank
The Zimelis Family

Media support provided by:

Mother holding young daughter dancing and smiling outside during a festival

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