The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco has featured artwork by many of our caroonists from Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez to a future M.K. Brown show. Currently on exhibit is Pretty In Ink: The Trina Robbins Collection from now until August 24th, 2014 (postcard pictured above). We pulled Andrew Farago, curator at CAM, aside for a few quick questions about the process of getting a show ready.
What do you look for when choosing works from a singular artist/cartoonist? Is it a plan to arrange them visually by era or area (like if they did paintings, cel animation, comics)?
"It depends" is my basic answer for that. If it's a career retrospective, I'll find out if the artist has kept most of her originals or if they've been scattered amongst friends and collectors. Sometimes we'll be focusing on a book that's been recently published, sometimes we'll have our own exhibition catalog in the works. Sometimes I work with a co-curator who's tracked down most of an artist's major works. The fewer sources I'll need to tap into to produce a well-rounded exhibition, the more likely I am to pursue it.
Although that's really more of a technical answer. Before I get into any of that, I make sure that we're focusing on a talented artist whose work will make for a compelling exhibition. I show favoritism to established artists with a substantial body of work, and always prefer to work with the artists directly whenever that's possible. It's incredible getting to collaborate with people like Stan Sakai, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, M.K. Brown, Steve Purcell, Eric Drooker, Nina Paley, Jeff Smith, and Dan Piraro, just off the top of my head, when putting together giant solo exhibitions.
Getting art ready for the Pretty in Ink show
Describe the basic layout of the gallery (or if you have a blueprint bird's-eye view of it) and do you aim to have people travel through the show the same way every time? (forgive me, I haven't been before so this question may seem odd)
This particular gallery has two entrances. Visitors will usually enter from the back-right corner entrance, and from there, they'll either wander up to the actual start of the exhibition at the opposite corner of the room, or they'll just start walking through and might end up viewing that particular room a time-and-a-half when passing through. With an exhibition like M.K.'s, which will be more focused on single-panel cartoons than multi-page stories, that won't be an issue for visitors.
Have you ever had an incident where you hung a show and then had to replace/take down art before it opened/while it was open?
Sure. I changed over our Sandman exhibition three times due to late arrivals. The original art for the second issue of Overture wasn't available to us until late March, and I swapped out an entire room to put up the first two issues. Artists and collectors have sometimes sold pieces while they've been on display, to buyers who don't want to wait until the exhibition wraps up before getting their artwork (although that's pretty rare). I don't generally like to change things once a show's up, since that's fairly labor intensive and I don't usually build time for re-hanging into my schedule.
Art matted and framed, ready for a wall
Is work for sale if the creator wishes it to be?
Generally not. We're a museum, so we don't sell art off the walls, but sometimes an artist or collector will ask us to include a note with contact information letting people know that the art's available for purchase through their websites.
How long have you worked at CAM?
I started as a volunteer in the summer of 2000, got hired on as Gallery Manager in the fall of 2001, and eased into the Curator job in 2005. I've worked on a little bit of everything over the years.
Photo by Lani Schreibstein
Are you donation-based? How can people help? Thanks!
There are plenty of ways to support the Cartoon Art Museum. Signing up for an annual membership, making a one-time cash donation (and asking your workplace to match it), donating original artwork, shopping at our bookstore, visiting the Museum, buying books or artwork from us at conventions…Here's a good place to start: http://cartoonart.org/join-support/
Sidenote: the CAM booth at San Diego is a GREAT place to pick up a $10 sketch to support the museum, they feature all sorts of fun cartoonists like Raina Telgemeier, Jeffrey Brown and Sina Grace. Last year, I sketched next to Gene Yang and Zack Giallongo and someone wanted us all to draw Morrissey. What a blast!
Thanks again to Andrew Farago for answering a few questions and carefully, lovingly putting work up on the walls with his crew. If you want to see Pretty In Ink yourself general admission is $8 while students & seniors are $6. Children 6-12 are $4 while WOO-HOO! Members & Children under 6 stroll in through the door for free. Check out Trina Robbin's book Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013 today.