In the land of Smurfs and Tintin, visitors can discover a range of permanent exhibitions, illustrated with original artwork and unique objects. Simultaneously, there are also several temporary exhibitions.
But the Belgian Comic Strip Center is also the former Waucquez Warehouse, a gem of Art Nouveau by grand master Victor Horta.
After studying architecture at the Académie de Gand, and by turns being the pupil of the architects Jules Dubuysson and Alphonse Balat, designer of the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken, Victor Horta (Gand, 1861-Brussels, 1947) designed his first houses from 1885 onwards. Here we remind the Maison Autrique (1893) and the Hôtel Tassel (1895) true representations of the Art Nouveau style. Masterpieces followed, one after the other: Hôtel Solvay (1898), Maison du Peuple (1899), his own house (now the Horta Museum, 1901), and shops such as A l’Innovation (1903) and the Waucquez Warehouse (1906). The architect was then at the peak of his career.
As a talent who is recognised across many continents, Frank Pé shows from his very first comic strip album that, as long as nature is allowed to breathe and light to live, the world, including its inhabitants, can be a source of wonder. A landscape painter, his artistic world is inspired by fauna as much as by dreams. Throughout his series « Broussaille » and « Zoo », published by Dupuis, Frank Pé became a master of colour.
Under the long reign of Leopold II (1867-1909), Belgium experienced a period of burgeoning development. Artistic disciplines proliferated and new techniques were developed in the field of construction, notably the use of steel and glass, enabling the construction of vast open spaces flooded with light. Art Nouveau consisted in harnessing these techniques, and applying them to architecture, giving the modern world a harmonious, balanced appearance.
From Brussels to Angoulême, Hanover or Las Vegas, in comic strip, on the walls of towns, in their undergrounds, during exhibitions and even on postage stamps, François Schuiten never stopped building bridges between reality and fiction. Transforming every communication tool into a medium of artistic expression, he told tales of Utopia, a world within reach of the imagination. His comic strip work is published by Casterman (Les Cités Obscures, with Benoît Peeters).
At the time when the nascent century was sparkling brightly, a Brussels fabric wholesaler met an architect at the pinnacle of his glory. Their meeting would give birth to a masterpiece, the perfect symbol of the union of art and a booming consumer society. Charles Waucquez commissioned Victor Horta to design a building to house his wholesale fabric shop. The Waucquez Warehouse was established in 1906 in the rue des Sables.
Busy and bustling, warm and joyous, the rue des Sables contained many convents and a barracks housing three thousand infantrymen, which was demolished in 1905. It was also in this street that an important part of Belgium’s press began or developed: L’Etoile Belge, L’Indépendance Belge, Le Peuple, La Cité, Het Laatste Nieuws, Het Nieuws van de Dag and De Nieuwe Gids, Panorama, Libelle, Mon Copain and others.
Stock of textiles in the hall of Waucquez Warehouse.
With the saga entitled « Sambre » (with Balac, 1986), Yslaire entered the ranks of the great. The creator of an intense and tragic personal world, he is part of a very small group of authors whose readers are capable of waiting seven years for the sequel. If he had not been a storyteller, we would certainly love to give him a place in the circles of Victor Hugo, Gérard de Nerval and Alexandre Dumas. When he moves on from the 19th century, his work spans drawing, computing and psychoanalysis (« Mémoire du XXe siècle », Memoirs of the 20th century)
From sale to takeover, the shop prospered for years before experiencing the effects of radical urban upheaval. The old chestnut of the construction of the North-South railway junction comprehensively destroyed this popular district of Brussels, called the Bas-fonds. Shops gradually began to close, and the Waucquez Warehouse eventually decided to move elsewhere too.
At the request of the owner who was keen to develop his business activities, the architect Charles Veraart designed two mezzanines on both sides of the entrance hall between the ground floor and the first floor and in keeping with Horta’s architecture. Then, while retaining its usual name, the shop was sold in 1923 to the company Verberckt, and then in 1957, to the Vertex group. The Waucquez family retained ownership of the building to the end.
A hyper-gifted artist, whose style is fluid and supple, just like the figure of his heroine, Colombe Tiredaile, the name Dany is always linked with « La Merveilleuse Odyssée d’Olivier Rameau » (published by Joker-Production), a major series created in collaboration with the scriptwriter, Greg, in Tintin magazine. Author of a many-faceted body of work, from « Ça m’intéresse » to « Histoire sans héros » (with Jean Van Hamme), Dany excels as much in humour as in semi-realist stories.
Abandoned during the 70s, the Waucquez Warehause building was known only to the initiated and a few night-owl inhabitants, vagabonds or petty thieves. In 1975, the architect Jean Delhaye, a former colleague of Horta, secured official historic building status for the building. Ten years later, it finally received a funding allocation thanks to two men: Guy Dessicy, friend and former colorist to Hergé, and Jean Breydel, the architect who had given much thought to the renovation of the architectural heritage of Brussels. In 1984, a not-for-profit organisation was set up, with the support of associations of comic strip authors. The building was bought by the Belgian Buildings Agency with the aim of establishing a Belgian Comic Strip Center.
A young architect, Pierre Van Assche (Cooparch) was commissioned to oversee the renovation. He made deliberate use of contemporary elements – luminous wall lamps, footbridges – where these proved essential, thus enhancing the work of Horta. The building was in very poor condition, and the best craftsmen in the country were brought in to restore it. It took two whole years to complete the work.
In October 1989, three days after its official opening, the first visitors saw this Art Nouveau temple devoted to the ninth art. A promotional tool for comic strips, an exhibition venue, a documentation centre and cultural ambassador among other things, the Belgian Comic Strip Center soon became a major international museum and one a very popular attraction. The philosophy of the project still holds in this twin affirmation: if you come to see comic strip, you’ll go away with your eyes aglow with Art Nouveau, and vice versa!
Jan Bosschaert’s Antwerp roots ensured that he retained a certain taste for toppling icons. While he had built himself a solid reputation in the field of illustration, his encounter with the scriptwriter, Marc Legendre, led Bosschaert to animate, for several years, the adventures of « Sam », a female mechanic who loves old cars, adorably sketched, just like all the young women the author happily commits to paper.
Isaac Newton, one of Gotlib's favorite heroes, in the hall of the Comic Strip Center.
Picture Daniel Fouss, Comic Strip Gotlib, photomontage Jannin
In 1986, the Studio Hergé, still run by Bob De Moor, entrusted the kingpins of the future Belgian Comic Strip Center with the drawing reproduced in this space. With this clear line drawing, the Hergé Foundation made an important contribution to the creation of the Belgian Comic Strip Center, because it provides a strong and symbolic image.
A native of the Flanders plains (1944), Ferry is the author of a major, essentially historical work. He started his career as a comic strip writer on the daily newspaper, Le Soir, and then on the magazines, Pilote and Tintin, and is the author of the series « Ian Kaledine » (with JL Vernal), « Chroniques de Panchrysia », and more recently, in the tradition of Jacques Martin, the author of an « Alix » adventure and « Voyage de Jhen », devoted to his chosen town, Bruges. An artist and scriptwriter, he has for some long time taught comic strip art at the Institut St-Luc in Ghent.
It’s a daily miracle appreciated by comic strip artists! A miracle that consists in recreating a bygone world or imagining what the future will be, using nothing but a series of images and a script. This is how, in 1989, Ferry undertook to draw the birth of the Belgian Comic Strip Center, with a script written by Yves Duval.
From the burlesque genius of Balthazar to his long collaboration with Hergé, from the Lion des Flandres to Monsieur Barelli or Cori the Cabin Boy, Bob De Moor (1925-1992) created a particularly rich and original body of work that ranks among the most important in European comic strip. He was a crucial element in the development of the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Before anyone, he had imagined the future plans for the Belgian Comic Strip Center, as these previously unseen illustrations bear witness.