VRAOUM! is a celebration of paintings, sculptures and drawings shown side-by-side. There is no hierarchy and certainly no divisions. Comic strips are presented as art and contemporary art as being fuelled by strips. Put simply, this is one big jubilation.
Visitors are welcomed in the foyer by the work of Guillaume Paris and the Taiwanese artist Hsia Fei Chang with, on one side, a column of video screens where cartoon characters fall endlessly into nothingness, and on the other a giant speech bubble made from plastic flowers. Further along, the walls are covered by a superhero’s disconcerting shadow, a work by Vuk Vidor, and an impressive montage-collage of comic-strip fragments by Sylvain Paris. Fabien Verschaere’s giant Mickey dominates the patio. Facing it, Rivane Neuenschwander invites visitors to draw their own comic inside giant coloured panels. A crumpled cover of the French comic-strip magazine Fluide Glacial lies on the floor, enlarged to monumental proportions by Wang Du with, alongside it, the originals for some of the magazine’s most memorable covers. Scattered here and there are wall hung works by Pierre La Police, a singular figure who can just as easily be found in contemporary art as in publishing.
Works in the polygonal space are grouped by themes or affinities, branching off into multiple circuits.
Pioneers is an encounter with comics’ very first heroes and their legendary creators: Outcault, McCay, Saint-Ogan, Herriman, Mc Manus, etc.
Hergé and the ligne claire presents original artwork, pencil sketches and covers by the master himself alongside fine examples of strips by E.P. Jacobs, Jacques Martin, Bob de Moor, Joost Swarte and Willy Vandersteen.
Top Gear explores the high-speed, engines-blazing worlds created by the likes of Jean Gratton (Michel Vaillant) and Hubinon (Buck Danny).
Little Rascals, as its name suggests, is a gang of comic strips’ most mischievous tearaways, with Pim Pam Poum (Harold Knerr), Zig et Puce (Saint-Ogan), Quick & Flupke (Hergé) and other loveable rogues such as Les Pieds Nickelés (Léon Forton).
Western transports us to the ruthless and arid Far West, brought to life in striking detail by Jijé (one of the fathers and most prolific representatives of Belgian comic strips), J. Giraud (Blueberry) or R. Morris (Lucky Luke).
SF sends us into the outer reaches of space and time, to meet characters created by Druillet, Forest, Gilon, B. Hogarth, Moebius or Alex Raymond.
Laugh a Minute is a gathering of comics’ most riotously funny authors, such as Franquin, Gottlib and the ineffable Jacovitti.
The masters of American comics, including Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), Al Capp (Li’l Abner), Will Eisner.
(The Spirit), Chester Gould (Dick Tracy), Walt Kelly (Pogo), E.C. Segar (Popeye) and Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts), are spread throughout the exhibition.
The Manga section presents rare original artwork by Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy), Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Kamimura (Lady Snowblood), Ishinomori (author of Cyborg 009 and many other famous series) and Taniguchi, a subtle portraitist of daily life (The Walking Man), together with younger mangakas such as Terada (Le Petit Monde) and Ooshima (Crime School). Spectacular artwork by Mariko Mori, Murakami and his disciples will be mingled in with their strips, as will holograms by the Chinese artist Yi Zhou and videos of Ann Lee (a fictional character, invented by a Japanese company) by Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, Dominique Gonzalez Foerster, Liam Gillick and Melik Ohanian.
In a separate section, Speech Bubbles explores the expressive and artistic potential of this unique device, with works by Gilles Barbier, Sammy Engrammer, McDermott & McGough, etc.
Contemporary strips and young authors also have their place, including C. Blain, Chaland, M. Satrapi and L. Trondheim.
Over on the other side of la maison rouge, superheroes have converged on the salle haute, its entrance decorated with a mural by Fabien Verschaere. In the hands of Gilles Barbier, Olivier Blanckart, Virginie Barré, Di Rosa, Erro and Gosha Ostretsov, crime-fighting crusaders such as Batman, Superman, Captain America and other superhuman personae become newly vulnerable, even laughable or pathetic. Meanwhile, wall-hung works remind us of the powers and invincibility of these heroes, created by Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gil Kane and Frank Robbins.
Dropping down a level takes visitors into another space, Walt Disney Productions, with a Goofy skeleton, a crucified Donald, another with a wild-eyed expression, and a mirthful Mickey. Works by Combas, Wim Delvoye, Keith Haring, Bertrand Lavier, Hyungkoo Lee, David Mach, Philippe Mayaux, Joyce Pensato, Peter Saul and others are set around drawings by the master and his studios.
In the basement, and for adults only, are some of the most risqué and bawdy strips by comics’ impenitent authors Crepax, Crumb, Frolo, Manara, Pichard, Reiser and Vuillemin.