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Home > Bart Beaty's Conversational Euro-Comics

Bart Beaty On Multiple Comics Shows In Brussels
posted June 12, 2009
 

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By Bart Beaty

With the city of Brussels presenting comics as a major tourism theme this year, it's a reasonably simple thing to take in multiple comics shows in a single day. Today, thoughts on three of them.

When I made plans to come to Brussels for this event, I made sure that I would arrive at a time that would allow me to see the twin shows at the Atomium. For those who may not know, the Atomium is one of the remnants of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, the first of the post-WW2 era. It is a building in the shape of an iron molecule and is, quite honestly, just about the most interesting building that I've ever been in. The very legacy of the modernist hope for the future, I'd have gladly paid the entry fee even if there had been no comics exhibits.

Which is just as well, since the two exhibits that were there underwhelmed. The first featured 14 artists (Swarte, Dupuy-Berberian, Gotting, Juillard, Schuiten...) producing images of the building itself. These were presented as posters in a circle around one of the round floors and again as postcards in the bookshop in the lobby. The images were generally nice, but you couldn't really shake the feeling that you were just looking at giant postcards. Which you were.

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One floor up was the bigger disappointment. "In Search of the Atom Style" was pitched as an important investigation into Belgian modernist imagery from the likes of Franquin, Chaland, Clerc, Meulen and Swarte. Alas, the exhibit was only a series of video monitors showing some drawings by these (and other) artists. There was a very informative accompanying text, but not much else to be seen. To be fair, the Atomium lacks the space that would allow for a first-rate exhibition, but I couldn't help feeling slightly cheated by what I found here. This would have worked better as a book, and I was surprised that there wasn't one.

imageBack in the city, the old Editions Lombard building still sits by the Midi station with the giant Tintin and Milou on top of it. Home to one of the most venerable of Belgian comics publishers, the offices host the Fondation Raymond Leblanc on the second floor, and, at present, an exhibition profiling Rene Goscinny's contributions to Tintin magazine. This is a bit of a strange exhibition as Goscinny is best known as the editor-in-chief of Pilote and he only worked for Tintin for about a half dozen years at the end of the 1950s. But he got his start in Europe at Tintin, and it is this work upon which the show focuses. On display are original pages by Uderzo, Marechal, Franquin, and Attanasio alongside Goscinny's typed scripts and letters to the artists. It is certainly unusual to see an exhibition of a writer's work like this, but it does allow for the interesting experience of imagining the work drawn in different ways.

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From there a short walk up Lemonnier to Anspach delivers you to the bookstore/gallery Brusel, which was hosting an exhibition of Avril drawings of, appropriately, Brussels. Avril is one of the artists whose work was also on display at Atomium. Although he has actually produced an extremely limited number of comics pages but, to my mind, he remains one of the most interesting artists in the field. His architectural drawings of Brussels, many of which featured the Atomium, were, as always, warm and inviting. I found at least a half dozen that I would have liked to buy. Readers wishing to donate to the "Help Bart Beaty Buy an Avril Drawing Fund" can contact me at the address below. Please, give generously.

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