It all began with the purchase of just a few tiles from flea markets during the 1970s, but that handful grew into an impressive collection of over 9,000 tiles to become the Roberto Pozzo Collection. In order to ensure the preservation of his collection and to make the tiles accessible to the general public, Roberto Pozzo has donated it to the King Baudouin Foundation. Today this amazing collection is kept close to the very place where a large part of it was created, at the Gilliot & Roelants Tile Museum in Hemiksem.
Born in Italy, Roberto Pozzo came to Belgium to study sociology in Leuven. He lived and worked in Belgium for 33 years, including on CASI-UO, a social project for young Italians. During the weekends he scoured local flea markets, initially looking for measuring instruments, Belgian lace and printing material. However, he soon fell under the charm of the techniques, aesthetics and know-how that were the signature of ceramic tiles manufactured in Belgium and especially Art Nouveau tiles.
Robert Pozzo’s collection of tiles grew to become the reference for Belgian ceramic tiles. It is a unique testimony to the blossoming of industrial tile manufacture in Belgium between 1840 and 1940 and to its importance at European level. The collection includes magnificent Art Nouveau tiles as well as neo-style and Art Deco tiles. It is exceptional both for its scope and its diversity, thanks to the great variety of formats, periods, styles, types, techniques and origins.
Ceramic tiles used for floors and walls have a long and rich international history. During the 19th and 20th centuries, there were some thirty factories producing Belgian tiles, many of which were exported to countries as far away as in Latin America and Asia. The main centre of production was close to the former Abbey of Hemiksem (Antwerp). With a production capacity of some 250,000 tiles per day, even before 1914, it is not surprising that a third of the Pozzo Collection originates from the Gilliot & Cie factory in Hemiksem.