A Visit to the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve. My recent visit to the newly opened Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had lately. The building first of all: it was built with the sole purpose of housing the museum by the architect Christian de Portzamparc. Inside, it basically consists of four blocks interconnected by passageways on each of the two levels on which the museum is articulated. The four blocks are tilted, with tapering walls and curves, painted in solid pastel colours, each wall being painted with a much-enlarged ‘clear line’ pattern taken from a Hergé case. Joost Swarte, the very artist who devised the concept of ‘clear line’ in the 1970s, is responsible for the layout and settings of the museum, but looking at his drawings in the museum booklet it would seem not all of his ideas have been put into practice.The building beautifully manages to transpose the world of Hergé and of his stories into three-dimensional forms and colours. One immediately feels at ease in this environment, finding the same clarity of lines, shapes and colours that was always Hergé’s hallmark. You can’t help feeling that the container is perfect for the content. Then the visitor goes through eight rooms (starting from the top level: Stations of a lifetime, Multiple creations, A paper family, Cinema!, The laboratory, The imaginary museum, Studios Hergé, Hergé’s glory). The number and quality of original plates, covers, commercial artwork, personal objects and photos, postcards is stunning and everything is displayed in the best possible way. On the top floor don’t miss the fim by Vincent Baudoux, the camera just pans across Hergé’s clear lines accompanied by music, it is a very useful and pleasant analysis of his style. In the extremely interesting ‘imaginary museum’ the ethnological documents used by Hergé for the various stories are exhibited. The last room (Hergé’s glory, on the lower floor) is a sort of commemoration of Hergé associating original artwork with quotations on the walls from the likes of Joost Swarte, Haroun Tazieff, Alain Resnais, Philip Pullman, Balthus, Michel Serres, Bernard Pivot, Charles De Gaulle, Alain Saint-Ogan. In a short video Michel Serres remembers his friend Hergé.The very last room is a vertical shaft section in which Tintin covers in all languages line the circular wall. Children’s voices can be heard telling the titles in all languages.However high an opinion you may have of Hergé as an artist you are likely to leave the museum with the realisation that you never fully appreciated how great he really was and what level of perfection he had reached in his work.No photographs are allowed inside the museum, a stance that is unlikely to improve the very negative image the present management of the Hergé estate has created with a number of unpopular choices. The other lamentable point is the fact that this museum, excellent as it is, does not seem to consider the existence of children-no interactive games, no cartoons, nothing of what would easily make children happy. This is clearly a conscious decision by the owners of the museum (this is a private museum, no state subsidies) who have chosen to look back rather than to the future, but it is a shame and one can’t help feeling that Hergé would not have approved of this choice. He worked for the children all of his life.
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