Have any Beano fans in the house? Then a visit ‘Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules‘ exhibition currently on at Somerset House is a must-do. It’s on until 6 March and the bright colourful comic journey will brighten any day. Read about our family visit here…
Step into the pages of the comic and take a trip into Beanotown to explore how this icon of British comics has fired up successive generations to break the rules, while discovering artists who push boundaries in their own original and wonderful ways.
The exhibition begins with a look back at the early days of Beano, there are many examples of the older versions of the comic in glass cases and framed on the walls. My kids found it interesting to see what it originally looked like, and spent some time in this room reading the older comic strips. This room was the busiest we found in the exhibition, the crowds spread out more as we carried on through.
I liked how the exhibition had sections highlighting Beano themes, including food and animals. My kids loved this case of examples of gross and weird food concoctions from Beano created in different artistic mediums. There was also a fun video compilation about food in Beano.
You start to get a feel for the scale of this exhibition when you go upstairs and there is so much more to see! This model town is at the start of an area where you explore the different areas of Beano world.
Bash Street School is brilliantly set up for kids as there are ‘desks’ with benches to pull up to where you can sit and read loads of Beano. Such a good idea to make it accessible for kids, instead of having everything hung on walls where it can be trickier for kids to read. Also, gives parents a chance for a sneaky sit down break!
There’s even a Beano modern art gallery – an exhibition within an exhibition – that contained an interactive video game my kids love, where you pretend to shoot stuff at art with a slingshot. It basically allows you to do what you’d never actually be able to do in an art gallery, nailing that ‘rule breaker’ theme perfectly. They played on that for a while. Splat the art, break the art… hilarious.
There are some really clever art works in this modern art space as well, look out for the eyes in the wall and be sure to follow the sign that says ‘WARNING!!! Things your parents might like’. This will lead you to such a cool video art installation by Ed Atkins, that fits the absurd food theme in Beano beautifully. Sit and watch the most unlikely sandwiches be built and listen to the amazing sounds they make as they come together. We all loved this (there is a warning posted that it may not be appropriate for younger kids, maybe because there are bodies on some of the sandwiches? But ours found it amazing to watch) and watched it more than once!
You’ll also find out about other artists who love Beano, how it influenced them, the music of the time, the politics of the time, and more. It is really a very holistic look at the history and influence of this comic.
At the end of the journey you’ll find a big room with picnic tables in it where families can sit and colour in Beano themed sheets. Along the walls of this room are signs that one might carry in a protest march, but with such a wide array of messages on them.
In the back of the room you’ll see a pristine white space where painters are painting more signs. You can choose to have any of the signs that are already on display painted for you to take home, or choose a message of your own. This was such a unique way to end an exhibition, and a perfect Beano souvenir. My son obviously had immersed himself in the theme fully as he chose a sign that reads WHY SHOULD THERE BE RULES.
Before or after your Beano experience be sure to walk just a few minutes away on to Victoria Embankement Gardens at Temple Place. Through the black iron gates and up the stairs you’ll find a rooftop terrace, vibrant with bold colours and patterns. This is Lakwena’s Artist’s Garden and it is a massive mood boost on a winter’s day! Bold and bright rooftop with beautiful views of the Thames.
We were invited to the Beano exhibition by Somerset House.
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