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Lovely review in L’Echo

Here’s a lovely review of my book (in French translation by Flammarion) which appeared in the Belgian newspaper L’Echo on the 15th of August 2016.

Wonky English translation below…


The Bonfire of the Vanities revisited


Peter Duggan, Australian cartoonist for the Guardian, likes to confuse readers with cartoons in the form of tributes. Those selected in this album published in black and white by Flammarion trace the history of art with irony and cynicism. Nobody is spared, the masters are ridiculed for the delight of connoisseurs. We laugh, but who cares. From prehistory to the year 4000, a period when museum visitors take offense at the presence of these incomplete ancient statues, Peter Duggan, a connoisseur of the art world, offers a true art history, in a kind of conspiratorial game with his readers, who must have a minimum of knowledge to fully understand the drawings. It’s an hilarious reading, but also informative.

The cartoon which is ironic about the talent of Jackson Pollock is simply hilarious. A delight. He tells us that “his first ceiling commission was also the last.” Also very funny is the take of the cartoonist on cultural sponsorship, a statue of David with the head of the McDonald’s clown, a burger and fries in the hands. The excesses of consumerism pushed to the extreme.

Drawings may offend, that’s intentional. Like the British queen lying naked on a sofa in a lascivious pose. This portrait, presented as a work of Lucian Freud, is denied by Buckingham Palace. Shocking!

If most of the drawings are about artists or art-making, somewhat diverted, others use the subject matter of a legendary artwork as a starting point for a joke. And here, we feel that the author is really fun. As in the portrait of Jesus and his apostles who discover the extendable table invented by Leonardo da Vinci for the last supper. Nice find also is the one where Venus de Milo is in charge of sign language on television.

No doubt that after having enjoyed the humour of Peter Duggan, you will not have the same view of art during your next museum visit or exhibition. If this is the case, the aim of the author will have achieved its goal.

Philippe Degouy