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French Illustrator Tomi Ungerer Recalls NYC ‘Kidnapping’ Attempt

TomiUngererPicAlthough the first U.S. exhibition of the work of French-born illustrator Tomi Ungerer is set to run through the middle of March at New York’s Drawing Center (35 Wooster Street), good luck trying to leave with a souvenir catalog. As the 83-year-old Ungerer this week told CBC Radio Q guest host Daniel Richler (via telephone from Cork, Ireland), the catalogs sold out within the first few days of the January 16 opening.

In honor of the exhibition, the Drawing Center partnered with online marketplace Artspace to create a limited edition poster of a famous protest poster drawn by Ungerer in 1967. Ungerer also did an interview with Artspace, during which he <explained why New York remains the one place he still does not feel entirely safe:

\»Once I was almost kidnapped at an airport, and things got a little more serious after that… I flew to Idlewild, now JFK, and after I landed three guys came up, two on my sides and one behind me, and one said, \»Tomi, drop you suitcases quietly and follow us.\» The guy behind me picked up my suitcases, like in a movie, and the two other guys grabbed me by the arms and dragged me away. They even opened up the soles of my shoes. I never found out who they were!\»

\»It’s very funny, you never think about looking for identification or anything like this. They were just a bunch of goons. Then after I landed, I learned that I had been placed in the black book, and my telephone was tapped. For a while there was a lot of hazing, but that stopped when Kennedy was elected, though I remained in the black book. That’s the reason why every time I come back I’m still nervous.\»

In the conversation with Richler, Ungerer offers his thoughts on the recent CHarlie Hebdo terrorist attack. In the Artspace conversation, he talks about the years he lived in a bordello. Both are great interviews.

[Photo via: tomiungerer.com]

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