New exhibition: 100 years of political cartoons
28 May 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first political meeting in the Chamber of the Parliament at the current Christiansborg Castle. Since the spring of 1918, Christiansborg Castle has been the seat of Danish democracy, as we know it today. The Danish Parliament celebrates 100 years at Christiansborg castle with a unique exhibition of satirical political cartoons.
During the spring of 1918, it was not just Danish politicians who moved into the third Christiansborg Castle. The Danish press came along, and with them followed newspaper cartoonists. For the past 100 years, newspaper cartoonists have followed the political life closely, and with pen, ink and watercolor they have informed and entertained the population in Danish politics, debates and intrigues through humor and satire.
Today it might seem completely natural that Denmark enjoys the freedom and opportunity to portray our politicians in an ironic, teasing or comical fashion. It has been a standard part of our understanding of how to talk about politics, and it is difficult to imagine a newspaper without satirical cartoons to point out political differences, power balances and political personalities. This freedom of speech only became possible with the implementation of the constitutional act of 1849. Since then, the people of Denmark have had the right to express themselves freely in writing, speech – and in drawing!
Exhibition celebrates democracy and freedom of speech
According to the Speaker of the Danish Parliament, Pia Kjærsgaard, satirical cartoons can be both rough and sometimes very powerful. “But it is characteristic for a healthy and strong democracy, that it is possible to express yourself freely and that politicians protect the cartoonists’ right to expose and tease. – Even when you are the one being teased. And most Danish politicians actually love political satire,” she says.
The cartoons in the exhibition have been selected by satirical illustrator Claus Seidel and Ph.D.-fellow Hannibal Munk from The Museum of Danish Cartoon Art. They have looked through the archives and have created an exhibition that celebrates democracy and freedom of speech, as well as emphasizing the uniqueness of the Danish humor.
The exhibition consists of 50 cartoons from the past 100 years. Each cartoon includes the original explanation that was printed in the newspaper. Seidel and Munck have also written a short description of the historical context of each cartoon.
Some of the cartoons are new and have become somewhat iconic for the Danish population, for instance the caricature of Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen wearing a tiny bicycle helmet or Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen dressed as a caveman. Other cartoons highlight important historical events in Danish history, for instance the appointment of the first female minister, Nina Bang, in 1924, the dramatic Chancellor Street Settlement in 1933 or the referendum vote on whether Denmark should join the European Union in 1972.
You can see the cartoons in the Rigsdagsgård from 28 May 2018 to November 2018. The exhibition is free.