In the 21st century, political cartoons raise many questions: is it possible to laugh at everything and with everyone? Are there topics that are sacrosanct ?

Advocating political satire in an increasingly tense global context creates debate, even among Western democracies. Caricaturists love to challenge prejudices and contribute to raising awareness. In the 19th century, the fight for freedom of expression was also won with the pen! With this exhibition, Chappatte (Switzerland, 1967) shows the power of political caricature, a universal language that crosses borders and has the ability to denounce and question current political events and the world around us. In certain authoritarian regimes, censorship reminds us that being a press cartoonist can be a risky profession. Caricaturists resist, bypassing prohibitions and pressure. The fact that their drawings sometimes unleash disproportionate passions or arouse the worst kind of reactions should make us consider… Tensions have grown significantly since the fatwa launched against Danish cartoonists in 2005 and the attacks against Charlie Hebdo in 2015. Seeking to address current affairs, editorial cartoons aim at disturbing and distorting reality to portray it in a different light. In the era of social media where everyone is on edge, political cartoons seem more than ever at risk.

After The New York Times announced in summer 2019 that they would no longer publish political cartoons, Chappatte wrote: “Now who will show King Erdogan naked, when no Turkish cartoonist can do it? One of them, our friend Musa Kart, is now in prison. Cartoonists from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia were forced into exile. In recent years, some of the best cartoonists in the United States, such as Nick Anderson and Rob Rogers, have lost their jobs because their editors considered their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start to worry. And fight back. Editorial cartoons started with democracy. And they are under attack when freedom is as well.”
For 30 years, Chappatte has been creating cartoons for the Swiss and foreign press, provoking the opinion and offering a different perspective on current events. Using the peaceful tool of the pen, satire goes hand in hand with social and political thinking. Political cartoons provoke, of course, but always with the aim of making people think, of creating a feeling or raising awareness. And it is precisely because they create the debate that these images must continue to exist, as Chappatte explains: “We are in an era when the media need to reinvent themselves and reach new audiences. You just have to stop worrying about the angry crowd. In this crazy world of ours, the art of visual commentary is more necessary than ever. Just like humour.»

With this exhibition, Chappatte explores the current threats to freedom of expression, from traditional political pressure to the extreme of censorship – murder – while questioning preventive self-censorship, as a new line was crossed by The New York Times when they decided to stop publishing any satirical cartoons due to the pressure from social media. In this exhibition featuring a vast number of images and acting like an unofficial catalogue of the best cartoons published in the press, Chappatte calls upon fellow cartoonists from Switzerland, Bénédicte, Herrmann, Martial Leiter, Mix & Remix, Pitch, the satirical newspaper Vigousse ; and around the world, such as Hani Abbas (Palestine/Syria), Antonio (Portugal), Angel Boligan Corbo (Cuba/Mexico), Cabu (France), Coco (France), Michael de Adder (Canada), Dieter Hanitzsch (Germany), Musa Kart (Turkey), Avi Katz (Israel), Ann Telnaes (USA), Xavier Gorce (France), Denis Lopatine (Russia), Pedro X. Molina (Nicaragua), Mark Knight (Australia), Rob Rogers (USA), Kevin Siers (USA), Zunar (Malaysia).

The exhibition was developed by MBAL in collaboration with Chappatte who invited cartoonists from around the globe. Eric Burnand, journalist and comic strip writer was in charge of the texts. The Swiss daily Le Temps has collaborated with us for this exhibition.