After a long search for a new central London location, the Cartoon Museum has found a new and permanent home at Wells Street near Oxford Circus.
The Museum is now working in partnership with architectural design company Sam Jacob Studio to develop a vision for the new premises which will include new exhibition spaces, visitor facilities, shop and learning centre. The new Museum is set to open in early 2019 with a dynamic programme of exhibitions and events that will continue to animate and add humour to London’s cultural landscape.
We have come a long way
The idea of a Cartoon Museum was proposed in 1988, but it was not until 2006 when it was firmly established at its current location at Little Russell Street. On a small budget the space was fitted out with gallery walls to begin an exhibition programme which would go on to include shows of works by great cartoonists such as Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, Steve Bell and Heath Robinson; nostalgia-inducing subjects such as The Beano, The Dandy, Spitting Image, Doctor Who and Viz; and ground-breaking shows such as The Great British Graphic Novel and Inking Women.
In its 12th year, the Museum has just launched its 50th exhibition – ‘50 Glorious Shows’ – a celebratory display that demonstrates how far the Museum has come, how much the collection of original British cartoon and comic art has grown (now over 4,000 pieces), and the incredible people behind the Museum’s success – the artists, the lenders, the donors and the passionate and knowledgeable staff team.
350,000 people have so far visited the Museum for the exhibition programme. An additional 3,000 children visit each year to take part in our schools learning programme and the holiday workshops. Through these activities, and the Young Cartoonist of the Year Awards, the Museum has helped young people to become professional cartoonists and comics artists, and has shown how cartoons and comics can help with literacy, with access to the arts more generally, and how humour is important in all our lives.
Why we must go
At Little Russell Street, the Cartoon Museum pays an open market rent which is subject to renewals of lease and rent reviews. This has had a significant impact on the Museum’s ability to grow as an organisation. Over the past few years, Trustees have been on the hunt for permanent premises in central London that would allow the Museum to develop to its full potential. After a long search, the Museum has now accepted new premises on Wells Street near London’s Oxford Circus with a 25-year lease and a peppercorn rent under a Section 106a Agreement. This arrangement will have a significant impact on the future of the Museum as what was spent on rent can now be channelled towards resourcing and, importantly, an exciting public programme.
Our move to the future
The Museum has appointed Sam Jacob Studio to develop concept design plans for the new Cartoon Museum which will include a permanent exhibition that enticingly tells the story of cartoons and comics; a flexible special exhibitions space for our changing shows; a destination shop; and an inspiring learning space for children and adults alike. Alongside this, staff are working on developing an ambitious programme of exhibitions and events that will launch the space in 2019.
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Image: early plan of the new Cartoon Museum