The Beanery

While I was in Amsterdam recently I took the opportunity to go to the refurbished Stedelijk Museum. My father took me there a few times when we lived quite near, in Amsterdam-Zuid. While walking there I wondered if the exhibit that I remember best and that made the biggest impression on me at that time would still be there. I was thinking of The Beanery by Edward Kienholz. I recall seeing it as a kid of maybe 10 years old. I was in a museum and they had this weird room like a bar, with strange sounds of people talking and they had clock faces instead of real faces and you were allowed to go inside. I liked it a lot, but was also amazed that apparently this was art!

The Beanery

The Beanery by Edward Kienholz

I was very happy to see that this item from the permanent collection had been restored and re-instated in all its glory. It was created in 1965 and based on the interior of one of the places where Edward Kienholz used to hang out: Barney’s Beanery. Visitors are still allowed to go inside to experience the atmosphere. Apart from the visual impression, there is also the sound and the smell! Behind the bar there is a small open tub with a conconction that produces a stale beer smell. Rumour has it that one of the original ingredients was urine produced by the artist. The restorers insist that the present formula includes ammonia instead, together with fried bacon and cigarette ash.

Kienholz died suddenly in 1994 and his funeral was a work of art. He was buried in a Kienholz installation: Robert Hughes wrote, “[H]is corpulent, embalmed body was wedged into the front seat of a brown 1940 Packard coupe. There was a dollar and a deck of cards in his pocket, a bottle of 1931 Chianti beside him and the ashes of his dog Smash in the back. He was set for the afterlife. To the whine of bagpipes, the Packard, steered by his widow Nancy Reddin Kienholz, rolled like a funeral barge into the big hole.” (from Wikipedia)

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One Comment

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