Tony Blair: an exhibition and cartoon biography
No apologies for plugging a wonderful exhibition of cartoons of Tony Blair (details below) just because its curator is one of my oldest friends, Alan Mumford, not only the management training guru de ses jours but also an established connoisseur, historian and collector of political cartoons and author-editor of delicious books of cartoons. (Have a look at some of the links in that last sentence!) The Blair cartoons at the current exhibition, tooth-achingly entitled ‘Grin and Blair It’, show in chronological order the progression from the gentle caricatures of a doe-eyed Bambi to the much later savage lampooning of (for example) Martin Rowson and Steve Bell. As Michael White, prince of political commentators, wrote in his Guardian review of the exhibition on 28 October, "It is Bell’s demented larger-than-real left eye which defines Blair, surely nullifying his belief that biometric passports containing all our irises will do any good."
The exhibition catalogue, with its wonderful cover cartoon specially drawn and painted by Steve Bell (above), is remarkable among such publications for (1) including highly readable and informative text which rivals the cartoons themselves for interest, (2) being expertly indexed, a considerable aid to browsing in it, and (3) being eminently affordable. It also admirably illustrates the point made by Alan Mumford at the opening of the exhibition on 27 October that so many of these cartoons are beautifully drawn and painted, worth looking at as works of art in their own right as well as being sharp commentaries on the political personalities and issues which prompt them. Go soon to the exhibition and get a copy of the catalogue while there is still time, just in case it isn’t published later as a stand-alone book. Anyway, many of the cartoons deserve to be seen in the flesh, full size: shrunken reproductions don’t always do them justice.
‘Grin and Blair It’ is at the Mall Gallery, London, a few yards from Trafalgar Square in the Mall, until November 8 and thereafter at the Cartoon Art Trust Museum in Bloomsbury (7-13 The Brunswick Centre, Bernard Street, London WC1N 1AF) until 18 December 2004
29 October 2004