NY exhibit "On the Money" finds humor in boom, bust

Thu Jan 22, 2009 5:20pm EST
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When the well-heeled patrons of New York's venerable Morgan Library wander through its new exhibition of cartoons about money, there may be some hollow laughter as they ponder their own hard times.

The exhibit of 70 years of New Yorker magazine cartoons titled "On the Money" was planned over a year ago, before the full scale of the financial crisis that has plunged the United States and much of the world into recession became apparent.

But the economic gloom has given it added punch.

"There's a cartoon in the show by Lee Lorenz -- it's a group of businessmen talking and one of them says 'Why don't we just say we have 91 percent full employment?'" curator Jennifer Tonkovich told Reuters at a preview of the show on Thursday.

"That's from 1976... that could have appeared in last week's issue," she said.

She said some at the Morgan Library, which prominent financier Pierpoint Morgan established in the early 1900s as his private library, had questioned late last year whether they should go ahead with the show at a time of economic gloom.

"There is something to be said about the need for some perspective and some levity, even though it's true that people are indeed really hurting," Tonkovich said.

"Being able to smile, or laugh, or recognize a thought articulated through a cartoon, is actually a really cathartic thing right now," she said.   Continued...

<p>"Not as well off as our parents were at our age." Marker, gray wash, with white gouache by Dana Fradon. Published September 1992. REUTERS/Melvin R. Seiden Collection, The Morgan Library &amp; Museum/Handout</p>