An artistic look at the G20

The G20 brings diverse political cartoons to Pittsburgh, on display at The Andy Warhol. (credit: Thomas Hofman | Photo Staff) The G20 brings diverse political cartoons to Pittsburgh, on display at The Andy Warhol. (credit: Thomas Hofman | Photo Staff)

A lot of attention has been given to the G20 occurring this week in Pittsburgh. Stories have been written about the world leaders attending, the security measures, the protesters, and even a little about what is going to be discussed during the international conference. What may be even more interesting, though, are the cartoons being sketched about the world event. Drawn to the Summit is an exhibition of political cartoons from around the world that opened last Friday at The Andy Warhol Museum and captures the global perspective of the G20.

The exhibit features cartoons from nearly all of the countries in the G20, including some from the European Union. Going around the room, one can put together a geopolitical picture that describes themes ranging from global warming to world hunger to economic troubles. Each country has a different style of drawing used in the cartoons, yet the real art is in the message that is being conveyed.

Some countries opt for more conservative messages or issues while others freely speak their mind. The Canadian cartoon “North American Dinosaur” by Brian Gable portrays the North American auto industry as dinosaur bones while a teacher credits their downfall to “brains the size of peas.” In contrast, a French cartoon, “Prime Real Estate” by Jean Plantu, shockingly depicts a plane labeled “American Credit” flying into three towers with the flags of the EU, France, and Germany. The different attitudes reflect each nation’s view of America and its own position in the world.

“Silent Tsunami” by Argentinean artist Alberto Sabat shows a young boy starving in Africa, not afraid of an oncoming tsunami. Sabat’s award-winning cartoon is a statement about how the media ignores the fact that there are more people dying of hunger every day than did as a result of the 2004 tsunami. Another Argentinean, Sergio Langer, makes fun of the George W. Bush shoe incident by having missiles fly in one direction while shoes fly in the other. This cartoon is creatively named “Missiles and Shoes.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers and art historian Sylvia Rhor came up with the idea to have this exhibit when it was announced that the G20 was coming to Pittsburgh. As everyone was trying to come up with a project for the G20, the two were talking with Toonseum executive director Joe Wos, who introduced the idea for an exhibit on global cartoons. Both Rogers and Rhor then went looking for support and were able to get The Pittsburgh Foundation to provide funding and The Warhol to provide the space.

Then came a frantic blur of activity as they reached out across the globe for cartoons to use for the exhibit. Rogers wanted to “show an alternative to just the leaders coming” to Pittsburgh. Rhor, who is fluent in multiple languages, was able to contact many artists from around the world in order to bring in international cartoons. After they received nearly 250 cartoons, they tried to choose those that would give a complete world perspective.

What emerged is a collage of world views on display at The Andy Warhol Museum. There are strong feelings of anti-Americanism, and Wall Street gets its fair share of jabbing, but the most prevalent theme is the unjust exclusivity of the G20. While some mock the G20 as really being the G8 plus 12 guests, others comment on the lack of participation from the rest of the developing world. One surprising feature of the exhibit is that it does not take the side of the peasant or the corporate giant. It does a good job of objectively looking at the issues and presenting them.

The exhibit, aside from representing worldviews, also presents cartoons from Pittsburgh local newspapers. One local cartoon pokes more fun at yinzers, people who speak Pittsburgh English, than anyone else. “Git Aht!” by Randy Bish shows a Pittsburgh reporter reacting to the news in Pittsburghese that Pittsburgh was chosen to host the G20.

Rogers will be posting G20-related sketches on his blog as he covers the event. Follow his blog at community.post-gazette.com/blogs/robrogers/default.aspx.