Bande dessinée, comic books, are the stars at Beaubourg

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The first room is devoted to the Counterculture of the 1960’s with Hara Kiri and Japanese magazine Garo

Centre Pompidou and musée d’Art moderne are a temple of fabulous contemporary artworks and its current exhibition of Brancusi is one of the most sought after in Paris today. But the news of the week is the “La B.D. à tous les étages” understand: Comic books on all floors, which the President, Laurent Le Bon, inaugurated last Tuesday with a large team of curators and Michel-Edouard Leclerc, a fervent collector. From 1964 to 2024, it tells the story of comic strips as works of art but also as objects of Laughter, Fright, Dreams, Personal Stories, History and Memory and Literature. The wonderful scenography by Laurence Le Bris makes it a joyful visit, with lots of surprises. I am not particularly a fan of comic strips but I came out happy and impressed by the multiple talents (130 authors) and the International attendance of this huge show located on four floors of the center.

Garo, August 1971, cover by Seiichi Hayashi

The 1960’s marked a turning point in the history of comics when they became a major means of expression of the counterculture. The Erotic flavor of some heroines like Barbarella by Jean Claude Forest, the Pop Art graphic style and free love advocated by anti Vietnam War activists. Graphic journalism was born then. Laughter is the second theme covered as a sequel to caricature and satire. Cartoons with Claire Bretécher, Zap Comics, Rubrique-à-brac are illustrated by films of the artists discussing and drawing live.

Jean Claude Forest, Barbarella, 1964, Ed. Le Terrain Vague

History and Memory is another striking section with Jacques Tardi who draws on his grandfather’s experience during WW1, and Art Spiegelman who tells the story of the Shoah in Maus. Keiji Nakazawa relates the ravages of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima in 1945 during his childhood in “Barefoot Gen”.  I particularly liked the “Cities” section with a large modeled city by Seth made of 45 model houses and buildings in cardboard and Will Eisner’s cities in black and white shadows.

Will Eisner, Cities

There are so many unique documents, from famous or unknown (to me) artists and lent by seventy institutions and private collectors, that the eye is overly excited in all the rooms. The team of two curators from Pompidou, Anne Lemonnier and Emmanuèle Payen, and two scientific advisers, Thierry Groensteen, who is closely associated to the Festival d’Angoulême, and Lucas Hureau, who advises Michel Edouard Leclerc for his collection, worked for fourteen months to collect 750 original drawings on paper. These artists come from all over the world and some were present at the opening. Laurent Le Bon called them “The magical Quartet”, and the energy that came out from them was tangible.

Vladek Spiegelman, Maus II, collection Art Spiegelman

The main exhibition is on the 6 th floor, but a floor below, there are more comic strips shown with the artworks. All the Hergé drawings (and some of them are extraordinary) hang in corridors  marked with a black sign. Corto Maltese is exhibited in the library Bpi on the second floor and a special exhibition takes place in the children’s gallery on the gourd floor. It is a wonderful way of seeing major contemporary art again and finding the comic books is like a treasure hunt signaled in black.

In Musée d’Art Moderne on the fifth floor, Hergé, Winsor McCay (in 1904), George Herriman, Will Eisner again but in color, and Blutch after Balthus, hang with artists who inspired them

This is an exhibition where you can take your teen age children and let them wander around. There is so much to read and to see that you can wander your own way and watch the short films or large posters. I loved it and highly recommend it.

La B.D. à tous les étages is at Centre Pompidou until November 4.

And you can acquire a number of comic books this week on Drouot.com

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