London’s Cartoon Museum reopened in its new location this week. On Wells Street in Fitzrovia, the other side of Oxford Street to Gosh Comics, with a handy cycle dock almost designed for me, I’ve walked around the museum while it was setting up, but today was the first time I got a proper look at it, inside and out, in a finished state.
And now you get to as well.
The Cartoon Museum is a London museum for British cartoons, caricatures, comic strips and animation, owned and operated by the Cartoon Art Trust. It has a library of over 5,000 books and 4,000 comics relating to the subject. The museum issues catalogues and features a changing display of over 250 exhibits from its collection of over 1,700 original cartoons and prints. The museum states that it is “dedicated to preserving the best of British cartoons, caricatures, comics and animation, and to establishing a museum with a gallery, archives and innovative exhibitions to make the creativity of cartoon art past and present, accessible to all for the purposes of education, research and enjoyment.”
The Cartoon Museum, co-founded by cartoonist Oliver Preston, was opened on 23 February, 2006, by The Duke of Edinburgh. Curator Anita O’Brien noted, “There has never been a cartoon museum [in Britain]… In spite of the very strong historical tradition here, there has always been a very strong ambivalence towards comic art.” It closed it’s doors at Little Russell St in late 2018, and has now reopened in its new address of 63 Wells St, north of Oxford St, as of 1st July 2019.
Previous exhibitions have included Ronald Searle, Pont, Fougasse, Rowland Emett, The Beano and The Dandy, Mike Williams, Mel Calman, cartoons from private London clubs, Viz, Alice in Sunderland (Bryan Talbot), Robert Dighton, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Spitting Image.
Exhibitions feature catalogues, such as Ronald Searle: Graphic Master, which includes essays on Searle’s work. Leading cartoonists and filmmakers have produced artworks in homage to Searle and written pieces, including Steve Bell, Roger Law, Mike Leigh, Uli Meyer, Arnold Roth, Martin Rowson, Gerald Scarfe, Posy Simmonds and Ralph Steadman.
The museum runs a learning programme for primary and secondary schools in a range of subjects, including art, media, history, English and animation. With workshops for children during half-term and holidays, it also features adult courses in cartooning and graphic novels.
Every year the trustees of the Cartoon Art Trust host the Cartoon Art Trust Awards, giving an award to the Young Cartoonist of the Year, and also giving a Lifetime Achievement Award to an artist who has made a significant contribution to British cartooning. Past winners have included Ronald Searle, David Levine, Trog, Fluck and Law, Norman Thelwell, Frank Dickens, David Langdon, Gerald Scarfe, Leo Baxendale and Bill Tidy.
They also give the Pont Award to a cartoonist whose drawings reflect “The British Character”. Past winners include Norman Thelwell, MAC, Michael Heath, Sue McCartney-Snape and Tony Husband.
The museum is located at 63 Wells Street. Its nearest London Underground stations are Oxford Circus (Central and Victoria lines) and Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines). Or, like me, you can take a Boris bike and dock it right outside…