Belgium's comic museum marks 25 years of high art

Belgium's comic museum marks 25 years of high art

Comics are serious business in the land of Tintin and the Smurfs, and nowhere more so than in Europe's biggest and oldest museum dedicated to the art form.

Enter the Belgium Comic Strip Centre, which just turned 25 on Oct 6, and you pass a giant model of the red-and-white moon rocket used by the boy detective with the ginger quiff, along with life-size replicas from other famed comics.

The centre is located in a stunning Art Nouveau warehouse in central Brussels, and it's clear that here comics, graphic novels, bandes desinees (literally: drawn strips), 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.

Beneath the glass ceiling of the former textile warehouse, designed by Art Nouveau master Victor Horta, they sipped champagne and looked at exhibitions marking the impact of comics on Belgian society, while the sounds of a live jazz band echoed off the high ceiling.

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