Last night, the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury, London, announced a big change. As a result of their rent being doubled, the Cartoon Museum was to move to a new basement location in neighbouring Fitzrovia, where they would not have to pay rent at all, basically being in the basement of a new building developed by Great Portland Estates that wants a Cartoon Museum in it. And it will be their permanent home – for at least the next 25 years.
The move is still going to be pricey and legendary cartoonist Martin Rowson talked through some of the details to the crowd assembled for the Cartoon Museum’s new exhibition, celebrating the best of the last fifty shows at the museum. And it really is an extraordinary collection, the original art of work seared into your brain as well as wonderful new discoveries that you wonder where they have been your whole life.
The new location on Wells Street is basically, the same street that Gosh Comics is on, but on the other side of Oxford Street. So yes, it is close to Oxford Street. It is close to the BBC. It will be part of the Fitzrovia media set. It is the same size as their current location – but with higher ceilings. And it’s all rather exciting.
Here is Martin Rowson making the announcement last night.
And here’s a look at those in attendance – and a few shots from the opening of the 50 Glorious Shows! show last night. I met Arnold Brown…
In February 2018, the Cartoon Museum celebrated twelve years at 35 Little Russell Street, during which time it has put on 50 exhibitions of cartoons, comics, caricature, graphic novels and animation.50 Glorious Shows! is the museum’s 51st exhibition at Little Russell Street, and will feature highlights from all the site’s previous exhibitions. It will also showcase many of the wonderful artworks which the museum has acquired for the collection during that period.
50 Glorious Shows! celebrates the world of British cartoons and comics with over 170 original works, many by the past masters of the British tradition of cartooning such as Hogarth, Gillray, Tenniel, Heath Robinson, Pont, H .M. Bateman, E. H. Shepard and Ronald Searle. Top comic artists and graphic novelists such as Dudley D. Watkins, Ken Reid, Hunt Emerson, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, Posy Simmonds and Bryan Talbot have featured in several exhibitions, and are now part of the collection. For those who love a laugh there are treats by Sally Artz, Larry, Frank Dickens, Mike Williams, Michael Heath, Kipper Williams, Peattie and Taylor, and many great joke cartoonists both past and present.
Britain has a great tradition of political satire, and the show will include selections from their Spitting Image, €urobollocks! Bell Époque, Maggie! Maggie! Maggie!, Punch, Private Eye and Steadman@77 exhibitions, as well as some recent donations by the rising generation of political cartoonists.
At the heart of political and social satire is great caricature, and the exhibition includes brilliant exponents of the art such as Max Beerbohm, Mark Boxer, Robert Sherriffs and Trog.
Other exhibitions have looked at how cartoons and comics have reflected social, cultural and political changes, including two world wars, the changing face of marriage, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and our relationship with the demon drink. One of the most vibrant areas of cartooning and comics is the world of graphic novels, which is represented by a selection of work produced by British graphic novelists over the last twenty-five years.
When the Cartoon Museum moved to Little Russell Street in 2006 the collection numbered about 1,500 original works. It has now grown to 4,200 works. The museum has only a tiny fund for acquisitions, so the majority of these works have been acquired through generous donations and bequests by artists and their families, collectors, and Friends of the Museum. It is only with the support of organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends and Trustees of the Cartoon Museum that the museum has been able to buy artworks and significantly extend its holdings of rare items such as a Beano cover by Dudley D. Watkins, a Gillray printing plate and the original 1961 advertising poster for the new Private Eye.