Friday, 30 October 2015

Jiro Taniguchi's 'Guardians of the Louvre' coming to English-language audiences in May 2016

Jiro Taniguchi's Guardians of the Louvre is set to become the latest book in the Louvre Collection -a graphic novel series created in collaboration with the renowned museum- to be brought to English language audiences in May next year. Nicolas De Crecy kicked off the line in 2007 with Glacial Period, and since then various cartoonists, artists and writers have been given access to the Louvre to produce comics that are somehow inspired and connected to the museum, it's history, and the works contained within; including Hirohiko Araki and Enki Bilal. It's a unique and lasting way of  enlisting some of the finest comic creators today to use their own artistic medium in order to 'respond' and explore a cultural facet of another.

Taniguchi's a superb, often overlooked mangaka, although the beauty and elegance of his art has made him incredibly popular in France. Very little of Taniguchi's work is produced in colour (the only thing that comes to mind is the Louis Vuitton travel artbook), so the prospect of a full-colour, hardback comic-book from him is rather exciting. 'After a group trip to Europe, a Japanese designer stops in Paris alone, intent on visiting the museums of the capital. But, bedridden in his hotel room with fever, he faces the absolute solitude of one suffering in a foreign land, deprived of any immediate or familiar recourse. When the fever breaks somewhat, he sets out on his visit and promptly gets lost in the crowded halls of the Louvre. Very soon, he discovers many unsuspected facets to this world in a museum, meeting artists and their works from various periods, in a journey oscillating between feverish hallucination and reality, finishing at the crossroads between human and personal history.

With this inner journey, Jiro Taniguchi invites us on a temporal and artistic trip to discover a sense of place under the leadership of some tutelary figures that appear to him, familiar or unknown ... the guardians of the Louvre.'

From what I've read of the Louvre collection, it's a bit hit-and-miss. A couple of aspects the series seems to struggle with is the specificity of the subject (lots of redrawing of famous paintings and sculptures), and the perception of 'art' and the way that subject is treated as very respectful. This seems like an ideal opportunity /forum to discuss and possibly deconstruct some of those notions of respectability, accessibility, definition, and more, but the series is commissioned by the museum after all, so it's unlikely anything critical would be produced. Still, more approaches like De Crecy's excellent, light-hearted Glacial Period or Hirohiko Araki's zany, gory Jojo standalone, that don't put these things on a pedestal of untouchable reverence, would be interesting and provide greater depth to the collection. I'm curious to see what Taniguchi does with the mandate, although from that blurb and the preview pages (there's the protagonist meeting Van Gogh) below, it doesn't look like anything that diverges from the afore-mentioned template. No doubt it will be beautiful to look at and sedately thoughtful to read. Certainly any new Taniguchi is a plus, and this is the sort of brief that fits his style and temperament well; it's difficult to see it be anything other than very good. I look forward to reading it.

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