Walk through the reception area, past the ticket office, into a Beano Museum; next the Birth of the Mavericks Hall with life-size Dennis the Menaces and Gnashers evolving through the ages, tumbling Bash Street Kids, a giant catapult and looming whale; climb the Office Tower into the Editor’s Office; Snooty’s Castle (actual castle); Dennis the Menace’s and Minnie the Minx’s homes; visit Bash Street School; stroll along Beanotown High Street past Beano Records with it’s jukebox playing tunes selected by St Etienne’s Bob Stanley; then the Beano Museum of Modern Art with it’s sleeping attendants, into the Garden area with sign writing installation by Peter Liversidge and finally the WiDL shop.
I worked with Andy Holden and 3D designers Sam Jacob Studio to dress the space and walls with graphics from the Beano – the characters, the locations, notices and posters. The Beano world made real, a flying tomato here, a smelly sock there. Many of the older characters were painstakingly re-traced and we made a BEANO typeface for signs and posters.
The scale of the show is ambitious – integrating artworks from a variety of artists (Sarah Lucas, Hardeep Pandhal, Banksy, Phyllida Barlow, Chris Sievey (Frank Sidebottom), Martin Creed, Alex Chinneck, Beryl Cook, Babak Ganjei, Gilbert & George, Heather Phillipson, Horace Panter (The Specials), Ryan Gander, Jann Haworth, Peter Liversidge, Mira Calix, Emma Hart, Nick Park, Martin Rowson, Rene Matić, Bedwyr Williams… and very many more) within a Beano world and a retrospective of classic Beano artworks. But the show makes total sense – there’s a lot to see, not a clean white space to be found, genuinely an exhibition for kids and adults alike. Held together by a layered information system designed by Emmi Salonen and immaculately installed by OMNI.
Instead of the usual exhibition catalogue Andy Holden worked with Beano artist Nigel Parkinson to write a meta-comic – a special edition of the Beano revolving around the exhibition featuring Andy and many of the artists from the show, complete with a visit from the Guardian’s art correspondent Adrian Searle who arrives on a swan. Three months immersed in Beanotown was a dream job.