University of the Arts London
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Tobias Yu-Kiener - Dutch Social Impact and PR Comics: Celebrating the Past to attract the Audiences of the Future

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posted on 2020-06-29, 15:36 authored by Tobias J. Yu-Kiener
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In 2005, the Dutch government became concerned about the lack of a distinct Dutch social, cultural and political identity among young citizens, which led to the creation of the Dutch Canon. In 2009, the government provided a dedicated fund to promote Dutch culture (inter)nationally through comics.

This paper shows how in response major Dutch museums, art institutions, and cultural funding bodies joined forces to provide artistic, political, financial and promotional support, resulting in biographical graphic novels, such as Vincent (2012), Rembrandt (2013), and Jheronimus (2015). The portrayed artists are positioned as essential elements of Dutch artistic heritage. Through the Dutch Canon, they have also become part of the national school curriculum, and have long been assimilated into popular perceptions of ‘historic Dutchness’.

Co-commissioned by major Dutch art museums, the graphic narratives targeted a traditionally difficult-to-attract audience of teenagers and young adults. The comics attempted to engage young visitors through the re-discovery of Dutch heritage, culture and art, in telling re-interpretations of the lives of iconic Dutch artists in the comics medium.

Furthermore, most comics featured in accompanying exhibitions, increasing their impact on audiences. Numerous foreign language editions furthered the great success of those publications, making them transnational PR products.



Tobias J. Yu-Kiener studied Art History and History at the University of Vienna and University College Dublin. He is a PhD-Candidate at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UAL), researching biographical graphic narratives about canonical visual artists. His research is concerned with the comics genre of the artist’s biography, the continuation of art historical traditions in such publications, the genre’s use in museum, exhibition and PR contexts as well as its supporting national, international and transnational networks. Further, he is a member of the Comic Research Hub (CoRH) at UAL.