Joost Swarte Everywhere

This year, Joost Swarte will be celebrating his fiftieth anniversary as an illustrator, designer and architect with an exhibition at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. The exhibition ‘Joost Swarte everywhere’ pays homage to fifty years of drawing by presenting a cross section of Swarte’s body of work – from his first cartoons, original drawings, sketches, designs and objects to his most recent work. Swarte’s search for the most surprising and iconic illustrations is also shown on the basis of sketches that have never been exhibited before.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Swarte started his career as an underground cartoonist for ‘Modern Papier’ and ‘Tante Leny presenteert!’. His breakthrough came in 1974 when he made his debut in the French comics magazine Charlie Mensuel. With his cartoons for children in the magazines Okki and Jippo, he became better known among a wider audience. His cartoons have been published in the pioneering American Raw Magazine since 1980. He also works for Belgian, French and Spanish publications, as well as for other American magazines, including the influential The New Yorker. Joost Swarte has never restricted himself to the cartoon genre; among other things he has also illustrated novels by the writer Nescio and designed stamps, posters and album covers. His work is everywhere, sometimes in the physical shape of a building, a pair of glasses or a stamp, and sometimes in the shape of an illustration or as signposting on a wall. Just about everyone is probably familiar with it, without having consciously seen it. This is because Joost Swarte’s work has a self-evident quality – it is clear, legible, slightly ironic and always recognisable.

The exhibition presents a selection from all the works Joost Swarte has produced over the past fifty years: from his first comic strip pages ‘The True Story of Mr. P.’ from 1969, to ‘The Organised Life’ from 2015. And from his world-famous 1980 illustration ‘The Mirror’, and the 1984 stamps he designed for the Foundation for Children’s Welfare, to his celebrated covers for The New Yorker. His work is shown in all stages of the creative process, from preliminary sketches to completed books, covers and silk-screen prints. By using a small number of spot colours and a lot of humour, Swarte provides his drawings with clarity and makes them appealing. Other highlights include sketches and designs for 34 stained-glass windows for a new housing project in the Marnixstraat in Amsterdam (1999), and a design for a window (measuring ca. 100 m2) for the Palace of Justice in Arnhem (2004).

Love Stories, Joost Swarte, 2014
14 September 2019 to 19 January 2020
Westzeedijk 341
3015 AA Rotterdam, Netherlands
Kunsthal Rotterdam