Cartoonmuseum Basel

Big City Life


On the basis of Frans Masereel’s famous woodcuts, impressive testimonies to the human condition in the city during the interwar period, the exhibition “Big City Life” at Cartoonmuseum Basel presents originals by comics artists – works that are either set in the city or are about it. Focusing on the diversity of form and content in contemporary auteur comics, the exhibition brings together selected renowned artists from Europe and the USA.
Regardless of whether they celebrate the city as a laboratory of dynamism and modernity, brand it as a place of vice, find the village within it, despair of its anonymity, discover its poetry or show its chaos, the artists’ perceptions and representations of the city are just as idiosyncratic and diverse as the perspectives from which they view it as a habitat.The affectionate drawings by Parisian gentleman Sempé, the precise everyday observations of Dropsie Avenue by graphic-novel pioneer Will Eisner, the bitter reaction to the 9/11 catastrophe by Pulitzer-Prize-winning comics artist Art Spiegelman, co-editor of RAW magazine, the surreal urban tales by Gabriella Giandelli, and Helge Reumann’s worlds that oscillate between madness and humour – all are united by the strong presence of the city as a social space. The techniques used to realise these works are as varied as the themes laid out here. They range from the impressions of city wanderer Christoph Niemann, sparingly and directly translated into paint, to Lorenzo Mattotti’s expressively abstracted ink works, from Chris Ware’s technically structured panels to Yann Kebbi’s spontaneous freehand drawings, and from reportage painted in blood by Michaël Matthys to the naive cardboard city by Belgian artist duo Thierry Van Hasselt and Marcel Schmitz.
With works by: Will Eisner, Gabriella Giandelli, Yann Kebbi, Frans Masereel, Michaël Matthys, Lorenzo Mattotti, Christoph Niemann, Helge Reumann, Marcel Schmitz, Sempé, Art Spiegelman, Thierry Van Hasselt und Chris Ware.

  • Lorenzo Mattotti, «Urban Landscape» 2007 Courtesy of Galerie Martel, Paris

  • Cartoonmuseum Basel 2021

  • Frans Masereel «Die Stadt» 1925 Frans Masereel Stiftung Saarbrücken © 2020 ProLitteris Zurich

  • Christoph Niemann «Post Office Saigon» 2018

  • Cartoonmuseum Basel 2021