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The Belgian Comic Strip Center (BCSC) is a veritable shrine dedicated to celebrating the creators and heroes of the ninth art. Housed within an Art Nouveau masterpiece by Victor Horta, the Comic Strip Museum has become one of the main attractions in Brussels and welcomes visitors from all corners of the world. We take a look at this unique institution, as both a conservation area and documentation center dedicated to honoring a Belgian cultural tradition.
It seems fitting that this incredible collection can be found inside a beautiful Art Nouveau building designed by Belgium’s own Victor Horta. The magnificent building housing the BCSC is over 100 years old and is the last semi-industrial building designed by the renowned Belgian architect. Originally built as a warehouse for Charles Waucquez’s fabric shop in 1906, the building was sold to the Verberckt company in 1923, only to be abandoned in the ’70s. The building eventually received protection and soon came under the jurisdiction of the ‘Belgian Comic Strip Center,’ a non-profit group of professionals and stakeholders involved in the comic world. In 1989, the BCSC officially opened its doors to the public.
Today, the building serves as a cultural platform by hosting a permanent collection dedicated to honoring the comic greats, while delivering temporary exhibitions that either delve into significant comic heroes or showcase the work of modern and contemporary illustrators and creators.
The journey begins by inviting visitors to take a look back through the history of the world and its civilizations. Within this section, we begin to understand how significant pictures were for storytelling and how they continued to play a strong role in the craft, especially when printing and distributing texts changed the landscape significantly. Visitors can then take a leap into the first examples of comic publications by touring the world of Little Nemo in Slumberland, one of the very first examples of comic strips in the form we know today.
In order to learn more about the creative process of a comic strip, visitors can then venture into the second part of the permanent exhibition area. This section delves into the more practical aspects and techniques such as the inking, coloring and publishing processes to understanding the litany of genres of the comic art (realistic, humorous, historical, etc.).
Not to be forgotten, there is also an interesting showcase that connects the beauty of comic art and its link with Belgium through focusing on the country’s comic legends. Enter Tintin’s world through various displays, colorful maquettes and 3D representations, to get an idea of the inspiration behind this comic masterpiece created by Hergé. Visitors also have the opportunity to take a look into Belgium’s other great comic master, Peyo. As the creator of the Smurfs, the Peyo section hosts various documents and audio recordings containing a plethora of little-known information about this comic master, as well as a highly realistic reproduction of the Smurfs’ village.
A portion of the BCSC is also dedicated to Pieter De Poortere and his comic creation, Dickie. In this auditorium-room, guests are transported into Dickie’s cozy rural atmosphere, where they can admire a selection of comic strip gags hanging from the picture rails.
In addition to hosting an impressive permanent collection of items, drawing and illustrations, the BCSC also serves as a preservation site, as it currently holds over 7,000 original plates and drawings. The museum also conserves items from the personal archives of several comic strip authors. Combine this with its fantastic temporary and permanent exhibitions and visitors will begin to understand the cultural significance of this institution and its impact on both Belgium and international audiences. The BCSC itself is also a platform upon which to share its knowledge of comic strip art through partnerships, which have given rise to exhibitions, conferences and contributions to publications. Among its main priorities are promoting the image, the language and the comic strip artists, encouraging artistic creativity and cultural exchange and promoting Belgian culture by sharing 25 years of unique experience in this subject matter.