Comic museum in Brussels marks 25 years of high art

Comic museum in Brussels marks 25 years of high art

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
Comic museum in Brussels marks 25 years of high art

Visitors walk past a panel exhibiting characters from the ‘The Smurfs’ in the Belgian Comic Strip Center.

Comics are serious business in the land of of Tintin and The Smurfs, and nowhere more so than in Europe’s biggest and oldest museum dedicated to the art form as the venue celebrates its 25th birthday. 

Enter the Belgium Comic Strip Center and you pass a giant model of the red and white moon rocket used by the ginger-quiffed boy detective, along with other life-size replicas from other famed comics.

Located in a stunning Art Nouveau warehouse in central Brussels, it’s clear that here comics, graphic novels, bandes desinees, call them what you will, are more high art than popular culture.

But if anything, the challenge for the museum over the past quarter century is to make sure that things don’t get too serious, and that the element of wonder that has drawn children to Tintin, Snowy and friends is not lost.

“In 2014 we’re trying to support what comics have become. We don’t want to get tied up in the idea that a museum has to be an art gallery,” museum director Jean Auquier said at an event to mark the 25th anniversary.

A party to celebrate the big day drew a huge crowd of well-heeled members of Brussels high society, including a few surviving contemporaries of Tintin’s legendary creator, Herge, who died in 1983.

But the museum is a major draw for tourists too - for many of whom comic strips are as much of a national symbol of Belgium as beer or chocolate - and is the country’s seventh most visited monument.

It attracts 200,000 visitors a year, more than double the number who visit a new, dedicated Tintin museum in the leafy new university town of Louvain-la-Neuve.