A Portrait of Politics. Social and Political News in Cartoons
The Palau Robert presents the exhibition “A Portrait of Politics”, a collective show – open to the public between 14 March and 11 June 2017 – that looks back at the social and political news of the last 40 years as portrayed in the critical, often satirical but always incisive work of 48 cartoonists.
“A Portrait of Politics. Social and Political News in Cartoons”, organised by the Government of Catalonia, features 200 cartoons and comic strips published in 60 different media outlets and other publications and thus provides a contextualised overview of our recent history through humorous drawings: the history of a shifting world and of a society in constant transition, as recorded by the impressive array of cartoonists in Catalonia and Spain. The exhibition also aims to demonstrate the social function of cartoon and comic strip commentary in the press and to look back at very important moments in recent history, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the first democratic elections in Spain after the long and dark period of Franco’s dictatorship.
The period covered by the exhibition, curated by the cartoonist Jordi Duró and the political scientist Jordi Torrents, begins just before the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine El Papus and continues through to the present day and the recent tragic events at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The exhibition is divided into eight sections containing cartoons and comic strips related to some of the most significant events in our recent history. The purpose of this thematic structure is to enable each issue to be seen in isolation and hence viewed from the perspective of progress.
- Civil Rights and Liberties: Between the advances of the landmark achievements and the reverses of the relapses and infringements.
- Fraud and Corruption: The failings endemic in the system.
- Security and Defence: Marked by terrorism and by participation in the conflicts that fuel it.
- Nationalism(s): From pro-self-government to the right to decide: amid court sentences and civic mobilisations.
- Politics: From “Speak, people, speak” to “They don’t represent us”.
- Work, Health, Education and Housing: The welfare state: at the mercy of parliamentary majorities and the prevailing economic climate.
- The Economy and the Environment: Bailouts, crises, privatisations, liberalisations, bubbles, evasion, tax amnesties, the euro, public debt, natural disasters, contamination, etc.
- Sport, Culture and Society: Major events, sporting and cultural successes, tragic accidents, and the fight against organised crime.
In a video screened as part of the exhibition, five authors from different generations – J. L. Martín, Óscar Nebreda, Flavita Banana, Manel Fontdevila and Jaume Capdevila, also known as “Kap” – give their views on censorship and the limits of humour, the role of political humour and the situation today.
Eneko, 20 minutos, 2014
Idígoras y Pachi, El Mundo, 1996
200 cartoons and comic strips by 48 cartoonists published in 60 media outlets and publications
Imagine the number of cartoonists that may exist in Catalonia and multiply them by the number of days in a year and the number of years since the restoration of democracy: this will give you an idea of the sheer volume of work that has been produced. “A Portrait of Politics” does not aim to be exhaustive, either in the themes it covers or the artists it features, because that would be simply impossible. However, the exhibition does seek to give a representative overview. Detailed below are the artists included in the exhibition, as well as the media outlets in which their works were published.
Artists whose work appears in the exhibition:
Gallego & Rey
Idígoras y Pachi
José Luís Martín
Media outlets and publications in which the exhibits were published:
A Nosa Terra
Así lo vio todo el Perich
Cambios y recambios
Contamos con los dedos
Diari de Barcelona
Diario de Sevilla
El Churro Ilustrado
El humor en la transición
El libro de los desórdenes
El Norte de Castilla
El Periódico de Catalunya
El Progreso i Colpisa
El Punt Avui
Faro de Vigo
La Voz de Galicia
L'Evangeli segons Fer
Mi puta vida
Norte de Castilla
Orgullo y Satisfacción
The New York Times
Xornal de Galicia
Flavita Banana, S Moda, 2016
Óscar Nebreda, El Periódico de Catalunya, 1992
Núria Pompeia, Cambios y recambios. Barcelona: Anagrama, 1983
Javirroyo, @javirroyo, 2014
You’ve got to laugh
There is a long tradition of satire and cartoon and comic strip commentary as a form of political expression and weapon, and their history closely follows the ups and downs in the fight for press freedom. Every day, without exception, cartoonists and comic strip artists provide us with a deft critical portrait of the current political and social circumstances, thereby playing an important role in shaping public opinion.
Now that we are about to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Spain, it is a good time to stop and take a fresh look at our recent history through the work of cartoonists and comic strip artists. Spanning the period from the first democratic elections to the present day, “A Portrait of Politics” aims to compare our individual memories of the events that have occurred with their depiction in cartoons and comic strips. Visitors may find they are affected in two different ways: their existing opinions may be confirmed, or they may be overturned by being called into question.
A group exhibition for the first time
Cartoonists and comic strip artists are notable for expressing their opinions in the press and, nowadays as well, in social media. Even so, they have been ignored in the realm of exhibitions, with the notable exception of a few monographic displays, one of which was held at the Palau Robert in 2007. Entitled “The Power of a Line”, this exhibition focused on the work of Cesc, one of the finest visual communicators in the country, and coincided with the first anniversary of his death.
Cartoonists and comic strip artists have large followings of people who appreciate their art and their personal or humorous gaze. If anyone is capable of creating universes of their own by injecting vitality into the world in which we live and of expressing a critical judgement on it, then it is these artists. They are connected with reality and, with their witty and perceptive illustrations, help to enrich our experiences and opinions.
In the front line in the battle for freedom of expression
Cartoonists and comic artists are the critical vanguard of the response to everyday and extraordinary events. They portray reality with a vision that is often humorous and always insightful. The combination of the image and the word has a history that goes back to the very early days of the press. Current affairs are covered in jokes, which express an opinion or reflect on the news, often in the disguise of the satirical drawing, which allows things to be said that would otherwise be too harsh or potentially deemed offensive.
Because they are so daring, cartoonists and comic strip artists have always been subject to censorship or targets for totalitarian attacks.
Historically, the leading lights and the most innovative figures in drawing have produced cartoons and comic strips. All the renowned draughtsmen and women have explored this language, from Opisso to Junceda and from Apa to Cesc. Nowadays, thanks to the new technologies, the pixel has replaced pen and ink, and new artistic possibilities have opened up, with collage, typography and design emerging as new communication techniques in addition to each artist’s individual style.
Cartoonists and comic strip artists are an impressive group, yet they and others working in related realms are indisputably an ignored collective in the visual arts. The explanation for this may be because they straddle the press, opinion and politics; perhaps because they work under pseudonyms; or possibly because their chosen field of action is humour.
Whatever the reason, the artistic quality of their work and the role they play in shaping public opinion are such that they should be admitted to the visual arts pantheon. This exhibition hopes to serve as a modest contribution to ensuring this occurs.
The test of progress: 40 years in transition
“A Portrait of Politics” is the outcome of considerable research in the press archives of the last 40 years that made it possible to determine the eight sections of the exhibition and the themes they cover. The cartoonists and comic artists were then asked to provide published work that would illustrate these aspects.
Even as early as the research phase, one constant was identified: repetition. A repetition whereby old cartoons and comic strips remain fully valid today and those of the present provide insightful comments concerning the past. An interactive game played by the visitor to the exhibition provides an awareness of this repetition. Issues that seemed to have been surmounted crop up time and time again, interspersed with new themes typical of a shifting world.
Juanjo Sáez, Ara, 2012
Cesc, El Correo Catalán, 1968-75
Juan Ballesta, Cambio 16, 1999
Idea and curatorial team
Jordi Duró, cartoonist
Barcelona, 1971. He studied graphic design at the Eina School and received a scholarship from the Parsons School of Design in New York, which awarded him his BFA. He is the founder and Creative Director at Duró and currently teaches at Pompeu Fabra University and Eina.
He continues to work on a regular basis as an illustrator and, since the founding of Ara newspaper, has his own graphic opinion section.
His work has been recognised in various publications and won national and international awards. He collects old papers (which he uses in his classes, publications and talks), as well as rock ‘n’ roll singles. He is a terrible DJ.
Jordi Torrents, political scientist
Jordi Torrents holds a degree in Political Sciences and Public Administration, awarded by the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Between 2002 and 2003, he worked freelance for the Government of Catalonia Ministry of Culture, producing studies on cultural institutions and policies at home and in Europe.
Since 2002, he has managed the Projects Department of the FAD (Fostering Arts and Design). In the 14 years he has worked for the FAD, he has assisted the organisation’s various board meetings on project design and has co-ordinated the production of dozens of activities, projects and services associated with the social, cultural and economic aspects of design.
Malagón, Ctxt, 2015