This exhibition features more than 140 Belgian railway posters from the SNCB/NMBS
collection as well as diverse public and private collections. Looking at these collections from a socio-economic, cultural, environmental and gender perspective, the exhibition places these graphic designs in a different context. Artist Nayel Zeaiter will present a new work about the railways.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the development of the railways in young Belgium focused mainly on developing industry. They were used for transporting raw materials and industrial products but also as a means of transport for workers. Mass tourism did not yet exist; only people from well-to-do backgrounds could afford to go on holiday by train.
Until the First World War, railway companies barely faced any competition from other forms of transport. The railways were so self-evident that they could benefit from the publicity for tourist destinations. The emergence of the car and coach, and the introduction of paid holidays, forced the railway companies to adopt a new competitive model. Leisure trains were introduced and thanks to multi-modal transport, where it was mainly a question of competing with the airplane, mass tourism continued to grow. Today, the train is promoted as a sustainable, ecological alternative.
The exhibition sketches the history of the Belgian railways through the development of graphic art. At the beginning, purely informative, typographical posters were used. The
evolution of new printing techniques, especially lithography, gradually changed the look and function of the posters. Visual and promotional elements took precedence and the posters became more and more colourful, attractive, and enticing.
The selection of posters, complemented by historical objects, was made in collaboration with
Pieter Neirinckx, collection curator and researcher at the Museum of Industry in Ghent, who specialises in railway posters. The CGII and EUROPALIA have also invited the artist Nayel Zeaiter to create a contemporary intervention, to be shown in situ, and directly related to the city of La Louvière. The artist developed this new work during a residency at the Keramis Museum.
Nayel Zeaiter studied decorative arts in Paris, and strives to continue and preserve the
genre of history painting. His work alternates between large format works and editorial works for the publishing house Comprendre, which he founded in 2011. He has exhibited at Vent des forêts (2017), at the Musée d'art sacré de Saint-Mihiel (permanent collection), and at the Palais de Tokyo in the exhibition Futur, ancien, fugitif (2019). In 2018, his book Histoires
de France en 100 planches illustrées was published by La Martinière. In 2019, his book Histoire du vandalisme illustrée was published by Comprendre. In 2021, he created L'histoire du Grand Palais, a 750-metre fresco around the Grand Palais in Paris.