Artoons is a series of books of cartoons about the artworld (Volume I – January 2009; Volume II- October 2009). The cartoons have been published in many art publications internationally from Ireland to Brazil and new ones continue to appear on a regular basis in a number of web and print publications. They were first developed for Artworldsalon.com, where they continue to appear on a regular basis.
“An artist, museum educator, and man about town (specifically, New York City), Helguera is an amateur anthropologist of the art world. (…) [Helguera’s] cartoons really do capture the foibles, ironies, and occasional stupidity of the art world with a clarity and economy that only a simple pen drawing and a short piece of text can achieve. They fill an important gap. Cartooning is rarely done in the art world (…) Maybe the problem isn’t the humor, but the truth. It may take years of sleuthing for Helguera, the anthropologist, to figure out why this is so. In the meantime, Pablo’s Artoons can do the talking for us.”
—From the foreword by Adrás Szántó
In a way, Artoons is the enactment of Helguera’s Manual de Estilo del Arte Contemporáneo (Manual of Contemporary Art Style, 2005), an amusing book of arty etiquette, at times irreverent, at times even inconsiderate, and always genial, that aimed to establish the conventions, functions, and hierarchies tacitly ruling the Art World community, and to pave the way to stardom for neophytes within the art elites; a book that also served as a guide for those interested in playing “the game of the Art World.” If, the Manual advised the new artist on how to inflate his or her CV without having to resort to imaginary exhibitions, or suggested the proper ways for a viewer to escape a never-ending video-installation when the artist is present, or apprised us of whether we should sleep with an artist whose work we hate, Helguera’s Artoons act upon that art scene, in which Helguera himself is a prominent member, to mock, or to self-mock, what continues to amaze this audacious artist: “We all take ourselves so seriously despite the fact that our rituals are so socially awkward, our writings are so incomprehensible and our art is so strange. Sometimes humor needs to come to the rescue to make sense of things.”
I’m nor sure this new volume of Artoons, which makes fun of us, along with those other characters—“the annoying museum visitor or the mediocre artist or the wannabe collector or theorist”—will contribute in any way to making sense of this Art World that, as Barry Schwabsky once said, “doesn’t know whether it is a subculture pretending to be a culture or a culture pretending to be a subculture.” But I’m sure that the combination of knowing satire and romantic enthusiasm that Helguera offers to test not only his integrity as an artist but our own limitations, will help those who are ready to enjoy our caricatures. Someone whose name escapes me once said that, beyond the tragic and the ironic, humor is the art of surfaces, of doubles and displacements, where significations, heights, and depths are suspended. Helguera’s humor leads us to the surface of things, where sense is produced, in the magic instance of our laugh, by the nonsense of the superficial. That instant of the pure sense is what Helguera has been searching for in his performances, as he has moved and continues to move.
–From the Foreword of Artoons 2, by Octavio Zaya