Last Unicorn

“Beverly Park & the Pony Rides” by Gary Baseman. (Corey Helford Gallery/Submitted)

For their last major exhibition of the year, DTLA’s Corey Helford Gallery (CHG) will welcome over 70 contemporary artists for “The Last Unicorn 40th Anniversary” group show, a tribute to the 1982 fantasy film animated by Topcraft born from the beloved novel by Peter S. Beagle.

The exhibition, presented in partnership with creative consulting firm Sweet Streets, marks the first time in history that the film’s original artwork will be displayed.

“This is very much a ‘by fans, for fans’ project,” curator and Sweet Streets founder Caro Buermann said. “I am a diehard fan. … When I was 14, I started collecting the art for the film, so I’ve had a personal connection to it as a collector for many, many years.

“After I started collecting, a friend of mine in Japan was looking to organize the symposium in Japan with some of the original Topcraft studio artists, and he asked me to help. … We wrote an open letter to ITV (entertainment company), and we put it out on Twitter. It reached ITV, then they gave my company the license to do this and the rest is history. Here we are about two years later, and we just launched the official anniversary celebration.”

Originally produced by Rankin/Bass, “The Last Unicorn” follows the story of Amalthea, an immortal unicorn who searches for others like herself, but is the last of her kind.

The film’s 40th Anniversary group show will be on display at CHG until Friday, Jan. 21, with interpretive pieces from a wide array of internationally acclaimed artists in the Main Gallery, original film production art in Gallery 3 and a pop-up shop with exclusive merch in Gallery 2.

“If I’m going to do an exhibition, I couldn’t do it anywhere else,” said Buermann, who has been a curator at CHG for around 10 years. “They’re an amazing, massive gallery. … I wanted to go as big as we could, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

During her curation process for the exhibition, Buermann wanted to limit the show’s criteria so that the artists would have more freedom to express their own interpretations of the film and its artwork, drawing on wider themes like love and coming of age.

“Part of what I love about curating, my greatest takeaway is the personal relationships that I have to the artists,” she said. “I definitely had a vision. Being the curator, I invited the artists anticipating what their artwork would look like for an exhibition like this.”

While Buermann described the entire art collection as one that “takes your breath away,” she felt particularly drawn to Australian-based artist Pip & Pop’s installation, a fountain that acts as the centerpiece of the Main Gallery.

“The materials that she puts into her art includes glittery, magical sculptures that she arranges into like a sugary landscape,” Buermann said. “She also collects artifacts from places where she is visited all over the world throughout her career as an artist. Little cute toys and things that she’s collected along the way, those are all incorporated into this gorgeous fountain.

“For anyone who’s seen the film, in the beginning of the film, there’s an animated sequence inspired by the unicorn tapestries that are on display at Cloisters by the Met. And that was the inspiration for the fountain. … (We had) a lot of really fun days in the studio putting this together.”

The exhibition at CHG stands as the most recent stop on the film’s global, two-year anniversary tour sponsored by nonprofit film society ASIFA Hollywood that began in July with the film’s first screening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ David Geffen Theater. For Buermann, it’s an opportunity for DTLA residents, art enthusiasts and both new and old fans of “The Last Unicorn” to come together to celebrate the film and the artists.

“I think with any show that I curate, I want people to just escape from their lives for a moment and step into this beautiful, magical place that I think exists in ‘The Last Unicorn’ story,” Buermann described. “I also think the exhibit, like the film, is also rooted in a place of reality, which I think is something anybody coming to the exhibit can take away from because the world that ‘The Last Unicorn’ lives in is not this perfect fantasy world. It is a beautiful fantasy world in the beginning of the film, but she comes to terms with … what it means to live in the human world throughout the story in the film.

“I think there’s definitely something for everybody. I want people to feel a sense of fantasy and magic, and also be able to take something away from that incredible coming of age story and just have a smile on their face as they walk around this beautiful exhibition.”