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September 19, 2006


Little Nemo

In his now open letter to the LA Times, Spiegelman stated that his own opinion was provincial when he protested that The Newark Museum is too hard to get to. If you have to postscript a statement that you make, perhaps your intuition is telling you something . . . “provincial” rings of coarse authenticity--try dumb or stupid instead.

I suspect his major conflict was with the Jewish Museum and that he felt obliged to buttress his personal distress by making a really lame swipe at the largest art museum in NJ. BTW, how hard is to go to Penn Station NYC--take the midtown direct to Newark (~25 minutes) and walk all of 4 blocks? I guess he must really denigrate the Brooklyn Museum, The C1oisters, PS1 and anything else that isn't accessible via the A train--and by the way, it will take twice the time to get to those institutions as it takes to get to The Newark Museum.

Ah well, love the art and don't look too closely at the artist--he just may turn out to be overly self-absorbed jellywump that is piteously unable to cope with even the most mild jolt to his routine (like walking outside his beloved immediate neighborhood or forgoing cigarettes for more that an hour)--it's a wonder he could make it to LA for the original show (it must have taken him at least an hour, or two, just to get to the airport alone!).

Can he actually be pleased that he has managed to shift the spotlight, aided by a press desirous of controversy, from the absolutely amazing and seminal artwork of early cartoonists--that he claims to value so highly--to his (perhaps marginally justified) disagreements with The Jewish Museum and his apparent distaste for undertaking pilgrimages of more that 30 minutes to view the bedrock canon of this wonderful Americana art?

In my book, “Art” Spiegelman, the great self-styled mouse, is in shifting the focus away from the true masterful “ART” of cartooning, in peril of being viewed as a mere Rat in the cause of elevating comics.


Having read "Maus" a few years ago, I was particularly excited to hear of the upcoming exhibition. I am terribly disappointed that Art Spiegelman won't be at the Jewish Museum, even though I live within walking distance of the Newark Museum. Having read his original letter on why he decided to pull out, I can't help but get the sense of yet another self-absorbed Manhattan snob who can't conceive of a reason why anyone would go anywhere else. (As a person who was born in Brooklyn and was raised in New Jersey, I tend to take that kind of attitude very badly.)

If he ever bothered to visit the Newark Museum (which I seriously doubt he has), he would realize that they have among the best curatorial staffs of any museum in the New York region, which accounts for why it has always enjoyed a high reputation. And while one must acknowledge New York as the center of the illustration world, Newark (and indeed New Jersey) have produced a disproportionate number of artists for our small size (Philip Roth, anyone?)

I'm terribly disappointed that someone who has garnered as much attention as he has (for good work, I will say), still harbors such an ossified provincial attitude. Considering that he grew up in an outer borough himself (Queens), he should know better. At least the curators of this exhibit will realize what Art didn't-that the entire metropolitan region, across both the East and Hudson Rivers, are together the largest and most dynamic megalopolis in America, not just Manhattan.


Hear, hear. For what it's worth (not much), Spiegelman had not visited the Newark Museum prior to this episode, though evidently he did at some point during the whole business. He admitted it was impressive, but still wouldn't budge.

That he hadn't visited it before, and didn't know what he was talking about at all, can be seen in one line from his original letter to the organizers saying why he was backing out: the Jewish Museum and the Newark Museum, he blithely assumed, were "hardly as prestigious as the MOCA and Hammer". I'm not trying to make comparisons between what are all fine and respected institutions, but that's an absurd statement.

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