London’s Tate Gallery are running an exhibition of work by Roy Lichtenstein, who is famous for stealing ‘appropriating’ panels from comics and representing them as works of high art. The exhibition runs until the 27th of May, if you’re interested.

But, actually, there’s going to be a much more interesting exhibition running in Orbital Comics in London at the same time. Earlier today (Tuesday the 27th of February, for the record) comics artist and design god Rian Hughes posted a link on his Facebook page to some photographs of Dave Gibbons speaking about Lichtenstein’s debt to comics artist Irv Novick, which was being recorded for a BBC4 TV programme about the Tate exhibition. In reference to this, Hughes said,

I suggest a counter-attack. Every interested comic artist should “appropriate” a Lichtenstein and rework it – use some of their unfashionable ‘commercial art’ drawing skills to comment on this annexation of so-called “low” art by “high” art, warp and twist it into something interesting and original. You’d actually be going back to the source and reappropriating Colletta, Novick, Kirby et al, so niftily bypassing any copyright the Lichtenstein estate may think they have. Take Back the Art!

After some to-ing and fro-ing, a Facebook group was set up a few hours later, called IMAGE DUPLICATOR, which said,

Call for Work

A show at the Orbital Gallery, London

May 16th-31st, – a week pre and post the Tate’s Lichtenstein show, with a possibility of extending it for another week after.

Pop artist Roy Lichtensein currently has a show on at the Tate. While the public is intimately familiar with his work, what they may be unaware of is how closely many of his images were “appropriated” from comic artists like Irv Novick, Russ Heath, Jack Kirby, John Romita and Joe Kubert, who received no fee or credit.

Is this an act of brilliant recontexturalisation? The elevation of commercial “low” art to “high” art? Art world snobbery? Artistic licence? Cultural annexation? Gallery shortsightedness? Or something else?

This show is a chance for real comic-book artists to ask these kinds of questions and share their views, via their work.

Every interested comic artist should “re-reappropriate” one of the comic images Lichtenstein used, and rework it, using some of their ‘commercial art’ drawing skills, to warp and twist it into something interesting and original,
and in the process to comment on this type of appropriation.

The IMPORTANT thing to stress is that you’d be going back to the source material and re-reappropriating Coletta, Novick, Kirby et al – NOT copying Lichtenstein, as we don’t want copyright issues from the Lichtenstein estate.

Take Back the Art!

Choose your images here, at this handy “compare and contrast” site: “DECONSTRUCTING ROY LICHTENSTEIN

Please give credit to the original artist: “Artist Name after Irv Novick”, for example.

The new work could be shown next to the original, so viewers could compare and contrast. See this as a celebratory, positive show which aims to get the point across that the original artists deserve credit and respect.

This could just be the most interesting comics art exhibition of our time. Dave Gibbons has already picked the Irv Novick original that WHAAM! was based on. More on this as it happens.

Novick Whaam


  1. I’ve seen enough Van Gogh mousepads and davinci shower curtains to say that the commercial arts steals waaay more from high art than the other way around.

  2. Having looked at the works he copied and his versions, he wasn’t as good an artist as the artists he was copying. Sad, really.

  3. I get the intention of this, but have a problem with artists continuing to swipe from Kirby, Novick and so on.

    Lichenstein did it in the 60’s, and it was a slippery idea even then: take these ‘anonymous’ comic panels and show them as ‘pop art’.

    But to do the same thing in 2013, thank the well known, poorly paid and deceased comic artist, and show the interpretations as ‘art’ is still not the most honourable thing.

    Just show the original artwork, never mind reinterpreting it again without the artist’s permission 50 years later.

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