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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Down the rabbit hole with Alice in Cartoonland

Coming up with the title for this blog I could think of so many Alice in Wonderland inspired puns it was hard to pick just one. Maybe that's because Lewis Carroll's classic story has become such a part of our culture we find it everywhere. Well, actually that was the Cartoon Museum's premise when they decided to explore how the imagery and illustrations of Alice have pervaded drawing and cartooning from the late nineteenth century to today. Short, sweet and snappy - Alice in Cartoonland is charming and refreshingly straightforward.

Ministry accomplice Becky gets excited
I have to admit, I had never been to the Cartoon Museum before - but the Alice exhibition seemed the perfect time for a first visit. Hidden just around the corner from the British Museum, the tiny Cartoon Museum is a little place with a lot of heart. While the Ministry may never have made it there before- it was clear from the huge crowd the exhibition opening had drawn that this was a place with some seriously loyal fans. Fun house mirrors, a magician dressed at the Mad Hatter, and some amazing Sipsmith gin cocktails certainly set the mood!

Fun with mirrors and the Mad Hatter!
In its relatively small floor space, the Museum packs in two permanent galleries and a sizable temporary exhibition space, in this case absolutely packed with every iteration of Alice inspired image you can imagine. From Carroll's original drawings of his characters, to Victorian political satire, Guinness advertisements, comic book renditions and prints from the famous Disney film, Cartoon land takes you on a tour of our fascination with Alice and her friends. 
Victorian satire

So often these days it seems exhibitions try to be everything and then some. What the Cartoon Museum has done so well is to capture our fascination with Alice on a level that everyone can interact with. Do you like history? It's there. Contemporary art? Got it. Your childhood films? Boom. Wanted to learn something about Lewis Carroll? Of course. 

Simultaneously showing our diverse interpretation of Carroll's story as well as the power and variety of cartoons and drawn images- the visitor walks away remembering their own unique memories of the book, film, characters - or whatever else means the most to them. Without being didactic, Alice in Cartoonland is a fitting celebration of the 150th anniversary of the book's original publication. 

Alice in Cartoonland is on at the Cartoon Museum until the 1st of November. Don't forget to check out their great events series to go with the exhibition! Hat-making anyone?

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