BEANO: The Art of Breaking the Rules

This summer we were invited to join the team working on Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules at Somerset House. 

Apropos- provided scenic graphics, scaling and adapting imagery to create a life size walk through Beanotown environment – Dennis and Minnie’s homes, Museum, High Street, Bash Street School, Editor’s Office, Snooty’s Castle, Museum of Modern Art, Garden, Shop and other exhibition areas.

We created life size cut-outs of well known figures including Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids. Historical characters like Pansy Potter, the Three Bears, Billy the Cat and Big Eggo were painstakingly re-traced. Vitrines displaying vintage editions and precious original artwork were dressed in spiders webs, smelly socks, even the glass is cracked. We made a handwritten Beano typeface for signs, notices and posters. Read more at It’s Nice That.

While it’s an exhibition for the whole family great attention was given to the younger audience. Free-standing cut-out characters are child size (selfie-friendly), information panels and artwork captions are set at an appropriate height with smaller graphic details at lower levels – eyeballs peering through cracks in the wall, flying tomatoes, banana skins, Squelchies on the hand-sanitiser pumps, etc.

The interpretive design was created by Emmi Salonen – a rich navigational language of information panels, section headers, speech bubble quotes, and artwork captions. We worked closely with the exhibition layout and 3D designers at Sam Jacob Studio. The graphics were printed and installed by OMNI. 

The show was meticulously curated by artist Andy Holden, a lifelong Beano fan who spent 18 months liaising directly with the Beano and their artists, immersing himself in the history of the comic, the culture of Beanotown and it’s inhabitants, and sourcing work from the many exhibiting artists inspired by the irreverent attitude of the Beano. Gilbert & George, Sarah Lucas, Martin Creed, Chris Sievey, Nick Park, Phyllida Barlow, Heather Phillipson, Rene Matić, Horace Panter, Ryan Gander, Peter Liversidge, Mira Calix, Babak Ganjei and many more. Bob Stanley (St Etienne) has re-created Croydon’s BEANO’S records complete with a jukebox playing suitably ill-mannered music. New works include a recording featuring young fiction writer Alex Wheatle, a comic strip from artist Nicola Lane and a neon sculpture from Simeon Barclay.

The exhibition programme is a special meta-edition of the Beano set within the exhibition, drawn by Nigel Parkinson featuring the curator (Andy), exhibiting artists (Rene Matić, Bob Stanley, Gilbert & George) and the Guardian’s art correspondent (Adrian Searle) – only available from the exhibition shop WiDL.

Photography courtesy of Somerset House. © Tim Bowditch

★★★★★ “From Viz to the fourth plinth to David Bowie, the perennially upstart comic’s influence rampages on… it is a riot in there”
- The Guardian