Beano Rule Breakers set to storm London’s Somerset House this autumn!

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules - Minnie the Minx - - art by Laura Howell
Minnie the Minx by Laura Howell

Dennis and Gnasher, Minnie the Minx, Bananaman and the rest of the Beano gang will take over Somerset House in London this autumn, in a contemporary celebration of the world’s longest-running comic.

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules will be a major exhibition celebrating the world’s longest-running weekly comic and a British cultural icon.

First published in 1938 and still crafted weekly from its home in Dundee, Beano has entertained and inspired across the decades, and, notes Somerset House, formed “a lasting impact on the contemporary cultural landscape and, crucially, on today’s artists themselves, by always applying one simple rule – rules should be broken.”

This landmark exhibition explores both Beano’s and contemporary art’s unruliness and irreverence, through the eyes of extraordinary artists who embody the Beano sensibility of rebellion.

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules - Dennis, Minnie and Gnasher
Art by Nigel Parkinson

In the 70th year of Beano’s top mischief-maker Dennis, Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules will feature original comic art by some of the comic’s best-known creators, some never previously seen in public, selected across its 4000-plus editions (to date) and rare archive artefacts, alongside works from leading artists and designers, imbued with the same Beano spirit of breaking the rules. 

Contributors include artists Bedwyr Williams, Hardeep Pandhal, Fourth Plinth artist Heather Phillipson, Holly Hendry, Lindsey Mendick, Sarah Lucas, Simeon Barclay and editorial cartoonist Martin Rowson.

Rebellion has always been at the heart of pioneering artistic practice, and for the past 82 years Beano has been right there too, inspiring generations of young people to discover the possibilities and sense of freedom that come through creativity. The riotous comic has created a gateway for some readers into the world of art and culture, where they can find an outlet to challenge convention themselves, just like Beano’s beloved band of mayhem-makers.

Beano’s iconic cast – Dennis and Gnasher, Minnie the Minx, Bananaman, Bash Street Kids, Billy Whizz and Roger the Dodger to name just a few – have mastered the art of rebellion, be it against convention, teachers or evil fruit supervillains. The characters are united in their ingenuity, endlessly hatching creative plans to bend or break the rules, even if they don’t always succeed in doing so. Across ten decades, Beano’s anti-heroes have encouraged young people to push and play with boundaries, an example that some of its readers have taken with them into their creative careers with unexpected results. Such is the starting point of this exhibition.

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules opens with the Beanotown Museum, introducing the maverick creators behind Beano, charting how they came to create the original characters.

The show then moves to uncover some of the comic’s recurring themes, which resonate with the exhibition’s cohort of contemporary artists and the comic’s many other fans. Tackling topics such as Class, Education, Feminism and Art head-on, Beano showed its stars doing it differently. It is only the adults depicted that ever make assumptions about what all children are supposed to do or be. Here, contemporary works – including new commissions especially for the show – will interact with the original strips, together providing fresh perspectives on the comic masterpiece.

The exhibition further explores how Beano has powerfully penetrated alternative pop culture and closes with an interactive workshop space, inspiring all ages to encounter their own creative misdemeanours.

Audiences will be made to feel as if they are stepping inside a page of the comic, with ongoing gags, editor’s notes and larger-than-life recreations of the regular sights of Beanotown, from Bash Street School and Bunkerton Castle to the homes of Gasworks Road, providing the backdrops for the audacious contemporary creations on show.

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules - Bash Street Kids
“The Bash Street KIds” – art by David Sutherland

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules is curated by artist Andy Holden, a lifelong Beano fan. His artistic practice spans sculpture, large installations, painting, pop music, performance, and multi-screen videos, often using the allegory of the cartoon as a way to comprehend our contemporary landscape.

“Both art and Beano are about being told to do one thing, then doing another: both require a creative solution,” says Andy. “Beano was for me a gateway into comics and a love of drawing, and, from there, a springboard into a love of art.

Beano’s irreverent sensibility is something that appeals to you as a child, but also, for some, never leaves you. To be able to present an immersive display of Beano’s history, and to examine its influence on art and culture is the curatorial equivalent of a ‘Beano feast’.

“The exhibition will bring Beanotown to life and populate it with a new set of resident maverick artists. In researching the show, almost every artist I’ve approached so far came back with yes, I loved the Beano and hopefully this exhibition will show how some of the themes that have run through Beano’s history are often the same ones that feed a creative, rebellious sensibility.”

Mike Stirling, Editorial Director, Beano Studios, said: ”I warned Dennis that one of the pictures in his new show at Somerset House would make people laugh so hard, they risked fracturing their funny bones and he said, ‘That’s just a mirror!’ Beano relishes making an exhibition of anyone who takes themselves too seriously and we can’t wait for families to enjoy what we have planned. Because without Art, the Earth would be just…Eh?”  

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules will run from 21st October 2021 – 6 March 2022 (please note, ue to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, exhibition dates may be subject to change)

This exhibition will be ticketed, prices are currently To Be Confirmed. Tickets will go on sale in the summer and to be the first informed of on sale, please sign up to Somerset House’s newsletter at www.somersethouse.org.uk/beano

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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