National Gallery of Art Welcomes First Comic Books to Its Permanent Collection

“Arcade,” 1975 comic book.
Courtesy of National Gallery of Art.

Mr. Crumb goes to Washington. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has been given an extensive collection of underground comic books and they are the first comic books to enter the gallery’s permanent collection.

As reported by the Washington Post, the 176 comic books were published between 1964 and 1977 and donated by collectors Abigail and William Gerdts.

The collection includes work by Robert (“R.”) Crumb, including editions of Zap Comix and Arcade: The Comics Revue. The collection is recognized by comic book fans for its influence upon such major modern artists as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, according to Judith Brodie, head of modern prints and drawings at the National Gallery.

“They [the artists] were all drawing their inspiration from cartoons and comic books. It seems totally logical that we’d want a representation of those,” Brodie said. “The 20th century is one that highlights this whole intersection between highbrow culture and lowbrow culture, and so much of the highbrow art is feeding off of what is going on in the lowbrow culture.”

Along with the announcement of the Gerdts’ gift, the National Gallery also divulged its purchase of three working proofs of Richard Diebenkorn’s Green—a print many consider his greatest.


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