X - Censorship and Image Culture

Exhibition from April 1st till November 7th 2021

Why was the constitution of the early Belgium so revolutionary? How did artist Jan Bucquoy put Mao in his underpants? How much naked is too naked for Instagram? Will our morals loosen up or become more prudish in 2021? Does time change our own view of what is possible and what is allowed? Is humor always funny? Are censorship and free speech diametrically opposed?

Few topics throughout history have stirred emotions as much as the concept of 'censorship'. Also playing cards and comics have often been the subject of prohibition and protest, even today. With the brand new exhibition X, Censorship and Image Culture, Stripgids (Comic’s Guide) and the Museum of the Playing Card have joined forces for a broad research into this phenomenon.

X confronts and connects. The exhibition brings together diverse (art) works to seek similarities between local stories and worldwide phenomena, between history and current events, between economics and politics, between art and kitsch. How do you deal today with images from the past that no longer fit into a contemporary frame of reference? How have government and religion been trying for centuries to maintain good (?) morals? How do economic interests determine what can and cannot be shown?

X does not provide answers, but questions. It challenges the visitors to explore their own boundaries, but also to reverse roles and put themselves in the perspective of “the other”.

X does not silence, but explicitly makes way for dialogue. Up to three times a group is invited for residency in the exhibition. Each time a cartoonist, a philosopher and an artist take the group along in a creative process of thinking about censorship. The results of those sessions will become part of the exhibition.

With materials from the collection of the Museum of the Playing Card, the Turnhout City Archives and work from a.o. Jan Bucquoy, Charel Cambré, Stephanie Dehennin, Frommelrommel, Jef Geys, Tom Herck, Kim Lectrr, Bert Lezy, Marvano, Jef Nys, Noortje Palmers & Jasper Declercq, Marc Sleen, Jakob Smits, Liliane Vertessen and many others.

Trustee: Piet Van Hecke – M HKA


Former exhibitions

Strips Bij Voorbeeld (Comics By Example) 

until August 30 2020

For the third year in a row, professional comics makers guided students in the Comic Strip Academy. This unique comic training program is an initiative of Comic Book Guide, LUCA Cartoon and Graphic Storytelling Brussels and the City Academy of Fine Arts in Turnhout. The five teachers at Stripgids Academie based their lessons on their own professional practice: not theory, but the real life of a comic book author. Seven students followed the examples of their teachers and gave their own unique interpretation.

Traditionally, the waving students show the results of ten intensive lessons and five demanding assignments. This year they are doing this for the first time in the National Museum of the Playing Card.

Don't forget to reserve your tickets beforehand, and make sure you bring a mask to put on during your visit. 

Card Players in the Arts - The collection of the National Lottery

Exhibition from October 26, 2019 to April 30, 2020

The Belgian National Lottery manages an unexpected collection of art. 570 pieces are on loan to the National Playing Card Museum. Discover a selection of art spanning 5 centuries, great and small. Welcome to the world of card players, gamblers and cheaters!

This mainly concerns graphics, inn scenes on canvas or panel, some contemporary works, books, and to a lesser extent, playing cards. It concerns well-known and less known artists: James Ensor, Félicien Rops, Rik Wouters, Frans Masereel, Gustave De Smet ...
The 'Card Players in the Arts' exhibition shows a wide selection of these.

Whist Markers - The collection of Laurent Gimet

Exhibition from October 26, 2019 to March 31, 2020

Card players used to keep track of score by drawing lines on the table with a piece of chalk. But from the 18th century, special furniture and game supplies were made. The spoiled players could sit at a real gaming table, use point counters and trump markers and bet with coin tokens.

With the rise of whist, adapted tools were also devised for this card game, the whist markers. From ordinary to extraordinary copies, from paper or precious materials, ingeniously made or very simple. You could use it to keep track of the score, indicate which color was good or follow a "robber" (a round of three consecutive games). The French collector Laurent Gimet has a unique collection. To be seen once as a result of the World Championship whist in Turnhout.

Hocus Pocus Playing Card

30 June 2018 -  31 January 2019

Everyone loves the conjuring art, or at least most people do. Conjurers have walked the globe since antiquity, creating illusions. Their tactics are based on dexterity and clever tools. They deceive to their hearts’ delight, yet the audience is happy to be pushed around.
The popularity of conjuring was increasing considerably towards the end of the 18th century. As a result, the music hall was acknowledged as a cultural venue, next to the opera, the concert hall and the theatre. The halo of mystery surrounding conjuring artists appealed to everyone's imagination. Playing cards had already been commonplace in Europe for a few centuries and now made their entrance into the world of conjuring. The first book containing descriptions of magic tricks involving playing cards was published in 1634. Conjurers often came up with and designed their card tricks themselves, which is clearly visible in the tinkering work. As conjuring was becoming more and more popular, the need arose for ready-made tricks: a new and true industry was born in the 20th century.

Because of the two world wars, the conjuring art suffered a temporary setback. People were not going out as much and radio and cinema were introduced. The entertainment world had changed. Today, however, conjuring is as popular as ever. Numerous talent shows and online videos demonstrate this. Card tricks are still popular with conjuring artists and their audiences, also to serve less noble purposes. A skilled card cheater will admit to have developed their dexterity with the help from a conjurer!

'Hocus Pocus Playing Card' shows you the wonderful world of the conjurer using embossed objects, playing cards, photos, old posters and footage. Although not all secrets will be uncovered, you get the chance to learn and practise some tricks yourself to make the impossible happen!

Joys and sorrows on Playing Cards
oys and sorrows on playing cards

People used to be very thrifty. If a pack of cards was incomplete, the rest wasn’t thrown away. They were useful cards that could be written upon, especially in the past when the backs remained unprinted.
Cards could also be used for overprinting. Or to draw and paint on it. You could fold the cards, or tear them, cut them, puncture them, paste them, or even grind them.

Dutch collector Gejus van Diggele made a personal selection from his collection of more than 5,000 cards which have been re-used in over 375 different ways.
Read his personal comments (in Dutch and in English) and discover what these cards can tell us about life during almost 300 years.

Memory stickers

‘Memory stickers’ is the title of Lore Stessens’ dissertation. For this project she selected old photos that did not necessarily mean much to her, but did arouse her curiosity. As the project sponsor she chose to work with used playing cards, the selected photos and Chinese ink.
No one should mind that the Chinese ink was unpredictable, spread out arbitrarily and added accentuating features in other areas. For ink will fade, just like photos and memories.

Lore Stessens is a drawing teacher. She was an enthousiastic youth guide in the museums of Turnhout for many years, did an internship at the Playing Card Museum and also worked there as a student. 

Lust & Lies - Roman intrigue on playing cards

until 31 August 2017!
Lust & LiesAround 1725 a card game is released that caricatures the Pope and the Jesuits. The anonymous producers challenge the lust for power and corruption to which they have succumbed. The game depicts the institution of the Church as the underminer of true christian worship and at the same time prescribes how religion should be practiced.

The ‘New Constitution’, which is what the card game is called, is rather moralistic. The Pope is depicted in dire straits to teach that ‘harm hatch is harm catch’.
Though the cards may make us laugh heartily, they at the same confront us with notions of good and evil, virtue and vice, truth and falsehood. However, greed and lust for power especially are mercilessly exposed in this game.

The card game was presented by the Jansenists, a 17th and 18th century religious and political movement that originated in response to certain developments within the Catholic Church. The Jansenists also opposed absolute monarchy.

The satirical card game was published under a false publishing address. This was not an uncommon practice at a time when religion and politics were still going hand in hand and being dissident could be life-threatening.
The Playing Cards Museum dares to open an exhibition about this game!

Curator: Filip Cremers
Scientific research: Clémentine Diepen
Design: Bram Luyts