An inspired move is the involvement of guest curators Gerald Scarfe, Harry Hill, Steve Bell and Viz Magazine who bring celebrity to proceedings (in a good way), as well as their own distinct artistic contributions. For example, in a room devoted to social satire, dominated by an enormous three-dimensional Viz Magazine, that comic’s love-to-hate character Roger Mellie ‘The Man on the Telly’ appears in a parallel storyboard offering facetious commentary to each scene in Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress. To enter a Sitting Room, where visitors can sit comfortably to peruse cartoon and comic books at close quarters, you must go through the bandy legs of a giant William Pitt, Gerald Scarfe’s take on James Gillray’s The Giant Factotum Amusing Himself (1797).
What this exhibition achieves most successfully, in galleries which explore themes ranging from politics, to social satire, the grotesque, the bawdy and the absurd, is the juxtaposition of historic works with contemporary material so that both can be viewed in fresh ways. Hopefully this imaginative presentation will awaken a new generation to the roots of one of Britain’s genuine talents: the art of irreverence.