The Pomposity of Art


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The Museum Vaults tells the story of an art expert, called upon by an antonym of the Louvre. He is charged with cataloguing the contents of the numerous subbasements that house vast collections of art. Along the way, writer and penciller Marc-Antoine Mathieu touches upon the conceitedness of art history. Off the value we place on art and on whether this value is not clouded after all these years of inventorizing, obscuring our vision of the real magic of a true piece of art.

The graphic novel is published under NBM’s Comicslit imprint. It strives for intelligent comics exploring lives, emotions and experiences. The Museum Vaults (Les Sous-sols du Révolu in French) succeeds in delivering a discourse about the absurdity of cataloguing, organizing and assessing art. The GN is part of a co-publishing program with the Louvre and Mathieu accomplishes a critical discourse on the very essence of his patron and is not afraid to tackle the pretentiousness involved with the absurd aspect of stocking artworks in stuffy buildings.

According to Jean-Paul Sartre, the most important motivation of the artist is to make himself known to the world. And what better way to make oneself essential to the world than by creating your own world, the artwork, that has the ability to open even new worlds for the viewers. That is the foundation of the act of creation. Mathieu plays with this concept of uniqueness without a material basis. The uniqueness of a piece of art is formed in the imagination of the viewer, imbuing it with unique perspectives, laying bare wholy formed worlds in the mind. However, all these worlds need a place to go. They need to be maintained and they need to be indexed. Marc-Antoine Mathieu dallies with these conceits and stamps his sardonic and absurd view on the playful language used in the GN and on topics as restoration, cataloguing, copying, framing and many more.

A nice injoke appears near the end of the book where he touches upon the strength of telling a story with a pictorial sequence while adding the afterthought that, up there, where real art resides, these ideas are ofcourse totally disreputable.

The story is made out of different chapters. Each chapter handles one subject, related to art whether it is about the mechanics of a museum or the act of creating art. The art expert becomes the red thread, guiding us through the fantastical labyrinth of the museum. The viewer is his companion and fellow explorer and it puts him right into the wonderment of the character.

Mathieu’s beautiful, clear and moody style is perfectly suited for the many messages and sublayers of thought that went into the storytelling. It almost feels as if the pictures make the way clear for the more heavy-handed ideas that inevatibly linger on after you close the pages. His heavy use of blacks and straight lines for the background vibrate a mystical feel. His characters are drawn in a looser style, grounding them into reality.

The Museum Vaults by NBM Publishing is a sharp dissection of the complex relationship between art and the viewer and what the implecations are of museums on artworks. Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s clean artwork gives rise to beautiful vista’s in the sublevels of a museum so immense, art becomes the nucleus around which all related things swerve and are being catalogued. A beautiful and absurd play on human nature and the act of creation.


The Museum Vaults is a 2 colors, 64 pages long graphic novel and will be released in February 2008. It will be available in your LCS and online through  NBM publishing.

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