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The unlikely art of the beer bottle

1 April 2017

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

As anyone who has ever attended a private view in London will know, contemporary art and bottled lager are natural bedfellows. The relationship between beer and art goes back at least as far as the late 1980s, when Beck’s commissioned to create a work to adorn a limited edition series of bottles. The success of the project led the brand to call on other artists to lend their beer a creative tang, and its bottles have since been graced by one-off designs by the likes of Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

But if you thought art’s love in with lager was a thing of the YBA past, think again. This week, the Indianapolis Museum of Art opened a beer garden within its grounds, allowing visitors to choose between lapping up culture or necking down alcohol. ‘If you want to come look at the art, we have that. If you want to get a beer and walk through the gardens, do that’, said IMA media relations manager Stephanie Perry.

Closer to home, an Edinburgh brewery recently introduced a new line of drinks devoted to the memory of Eduardo Paolozzi. According to the Edinburgh Beer Factory, the Paolozzi beer was created with ‘Edinburgh flair and Italian technology’, and comes packaged in a design inspired by the artist’s Illumination and the Eye. ‘Paolozzi believed in the power of combining art and science, old and new, to create something extraordinary’, says the company’s website. ‘He called it the “sublime in the everyday”. “Just” a lager? This is something pretty special.’

Meanwhile, over in Hungary, the ruling Fidesz party is reportedly threatening to ban Dutch brewer Heineken from using their trademark red star on bottles. The logo, an austere classic of 1930s product design, has come under fire for its resemblance to ‘totalitarian’ imagery, namely the Red Army’s near identical five pointed star. While some observers see the spat as a tit-for-tat response for Heineken winning a lawsuit against a rival Hungarian brewer, the government says any brand bearing such iconography has a ‘moral obligation’ to get rid of it. A puzzled spokesman from Heineken, however, insisted that the logo contained ‘no political meaning whatsoever’. The Rake sincerely hopes that Heineken and the Hungarians can settle their differences, preferably over a couple of frosty ones.

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