Pieter Engels, was the first Dutch artist to present himself as an entrepreneur, he founded the company EPO: Engels Products Organization.
A company that made products instead of art. Products made of smooth, immaculate materials, reminiscent of the luxury decorative objects and utensils of the time.
The company and its products were marketed through leaflets, posters and flyers as was common practice in advertising.
EPO was immediately picked up by the Dutch art world and became a successful company.
Typical EPO products are prototypes, restored furniture, assemblages, curtain pieces, girls coat pieces (1966) letter pieces and connection plate.
Some EPO key works from the late sixties with art as subject: Weight of a modern art piece(1968), Clothes of the Emporer a modern art piece(1967), Golden Fiction(1968), Bad Constructed Canvas(1967, homage a engels)
With EPO Pieter Engels, not only questioned the values of uniqueness and authenticity and the idea of art as individual expression, but he also ironized the market mechanism of the art apparatus.
Art instead of individual expression, to art as a mass product.
Instead of a unique work of art, with a value that cannot be expressed in money, the work of art becomes a brand name article with the accompanying price tag.
Pieter Engels made the economic laws the subject of his art at a time when mentioning art and commerce in one sentence was still taboo, in order to mercilessly expose the flat market mechanism in art. Looking at today, it is clear that art has not been able to escape the unrestrained power of the market and its ridiculous excesses.
EPO S H O W
NEW CAPTIVATING SENSATIONAL AWESOME EXCEPTIONAL INSANE SEXY EXTRAORDINARY STREAMLINED ATTRACTIVE MORE BEAUTIFUL BETTER FUNCTIONAL UNIQUE NEW NEW NEW NEW ALWAYS NEWER ALWAYS NEWER ALWAYS NEWER! ALWAYS BEST!!!!!
TAKE EPO IT’S AN ENGLISH PRODUCT
WHAT ENGELS DOES IS ENGELS DOES WELL!
Do you already have a Jaguar – chinchilla for your wife – a private pool – air conditioning throughout the house? Then now is the time to buy EPO! SURPRISE YOUR ROOMMATES – YOUR FRIENDS WILL ENVY YOU! YOU ARE SO NEW TO HAVING EPO IN YOUR HOME!
free 1 Philishave or blender with purchase of 1 EPO cat. A/ free 1 refrigerator with 3 EPO cat A free 1 flight to the Canary Islands with the purchase of 6 EPO cat A (cash payment) and also EASY PAYMENT TERMS
Both for individuals and businesses in any shape or color available specially made for your home or business from 400 guilders per m2
EPO cat A / from 1500 guilders per m2
EPO cat B/ from 800 guilders per m2
EPO cat C/ from 500 guilders per m2
EPO cat D/ from 250 guilders per m2 etc. such as: (wall) furniture – obstacles – reliefs etc.
EPO suprisingflasks cat: Z
1 fl oz ENGELS EXHAUSTED AIR (unblended) a 25.- guilders
1 fl unblended English air (mixed) a 25.- guilders
1 fl fl MIXTURE ENGELS (various used products) a 50.- guilder
1 fl ENGELS HAIR limited supply a 99.- guilder
1 fl fl oz. of finnish limited available at 99.- guilders
ENGLISH PRODUCTS AGENCY
109 valeriusstraat – amsterdam – holland – phone: 020-734811
STUNTMAN OPENS SHOWROOM IN AMSTERDAM
PIETER ENGELS: ,, Behind all the craziness is a lot of seriousness”
ACTIVITIES COVER A WIDE AREA
AMSTERDAM, April 23. – In the Amsterdam art world, which is rich in strange birds, Pieter Engels (27), son of a painter from Rosmalen, has emphatically claimed a place. He believes he can claim that place by opening his “ENGELS ROOM” today on the Prinsengracht, where the results of his activities, which cover a broad field, will be permanently exhibited. He will make his showroom available to his avant-garde colleagues two months a year.
,,Engels is ‘a mentality – a richly varied mentality. From this mentality he brings you again and again in a state of wonder. His activities now, resulting in his English Products and ‘, English Formulations’ are always the result of an incidental selection from his conclusions, piece by piece and at the same time together a seeing through of what is considered important and unimportant. In his activity he makes understanding and concepts transparent,” reads the invitation for this afternoon. And on the admission ticket: English personally tears your ticket for f 1,- . If you tear it yourself, it will cost you nothing”. Pieter Engels is in for a joke. These jokes manifest themselves mainly in the texts he has designed for posters, which are intended to give advance publicity to an upcoming exhibition. When Pieter Engels director and sole employee of the Engels Products Organization, based in the Valeriusstraat in the capital, was to exhibit in Arnhem last year, he asked the public to purchase E.P.O. products on the condition that they owned a jaguar, a Chinchilla (for the wife) ‘n private swimming pool and air conditioning throughout the house.” “But behind all this craziness is a lot of seriousness,” he says.
Pieter Engels is actually a painter by trade. About ten years ago he took classes at the Bossche academy, where he concentrated mainly on very dark brown and black abstract paintings much to the displeasure of his teachers who much preferred to push him in the direction of the landscape and still life genre. And because I’m a fairly docile type, I bravely started painting still lifes. I even had success with it”. In 1958 he thought it was high time to move to the artists’ mecca of Amsterdam, where he began to apply himself to the production of spatial projects – resulting from painting. When the hard-working Engels had had enough of this, he diligently finished a large number of monochrome paintings in which black, white and gray predominated, and then threw himself into aluminum relief, some of which adorned the long walls of his home in Old South. En passant he occupies himself with writing catchy advertising texts, exclusively for the benefit of his own exhibitions, the launch of the Engels Formulations, a futuristic project as a reaction to current poetry, and with his two novels, both of which are far from reaching their final chapter. In short, Pieter Engels is engaged in many facets of art, unlike the established men like Apel and other luminaries who “just do the same thing over and over again.
This is what Engels finds most oppressive about being an artist. Ideally, every season he would like to bring a new art form to the market, which is far from saturated. In November, for example, he will present a brand new project: “a very luxurious and very pleasant way of burying people. How he plans to do this is already well known to him; for us it will remain a question for the time being. Pieter Engels will keep this secret under embargo for at least another six months. We took the opportunity of the opening of his showroom to look up the man who cannot possibly be categorized in the occupational guide. In private, Engels is considerably calmer than his sales promoter Simon Es gives him credit for. Visibly shy, he initiates the evensong ceremony. The Engels family further consists of wife Liesbeth (26), Manuela (4), and the almost two-year-old “little boss” Wladimir. From behind his thick glasses he looks at his wife and the two offspring, who retire elsewhere in the old mansion. Pieter Engels is going to tell about his work. He doesn’t like to tell stories because speaking is a task for him. I write much better. The advertising I do for myself I think does the trick. What Engels does is too much to mention or Engels makes his English Products to entertain himself and you does I believe. People become curious. That entertaining, for example, has a double meaning for me. I once had an exhibition where there were only chairs on display that I had sawed in half. I had entertained them and people entertained themselves. A museum in Stockholm even bought such a chair. Business does not always have to be done in a serious atmosphere”.
Doesn’t such an exhibition provoke resistance? Engels says: enough. But I don’t mind being mistaken for an art rebel. However, I have more supporters than opponents of my work. My supporters are mainly collectors. And with me they get what they want. I try to come up with something completely new every time. You know, I can use anything for my work. Those aluminum reliefs (points to the wall) are nothing at first sight. You can’t see anything in them. But the emptiness is also something, isn’t it? That also fascinates me. That’s why I can use anything. I find a painting of a pope as absurd as broken tables and chairs. That painting does not compare favorably with those other art expressions of mine. By the way, I do notice from my sales figures that there is a growing demand for my work”. Pieter Engels says all this with some hesitation. He is not a smooth talker; he prefers to listen. When his work is not demanding, he listens in the dimly lit bars on Nieuwen- and Zeedijk. That is the end for him. He has a glowing dislike for the typical artists’ bars such as De Kring and Reynders on “Het Plein”. He doesn’t like to meet colleagues who often use overbearing language. As far as that goes, Pieter Engels is at home in the quiet Old South, where people only spy behind the curtains. HE finds himself an isolated figure. And he feels comfortable with that. He also feels good about his daily schedule: getting up at two o’clock in the afternoon (“In the morning you have to do all sorts of rotten jobs anyway”). Sitting with his wife and kids for three hours and then working late into the night. With his golden hands, and his golden brain, Pieter Engels makes and thinks up new stunts”.
BOTTLE OF AIR
Another art form to which the man, who will cut any valid banknote for ten guilders if you wish or help you for a tenner to a bottle of air exhaled by him, is happy to indulge, is poetry. For Pieter Engels does not like the current one very much. ,, It’s all far too long and therefore risks becoming unclear to the reader. Over the years I have tried to change this”. He walks to his desk in the corner of the room where the English Product Organization is located ( the letterhead is adorned with a tiny picture of the director of this company) and returns a moment later with a bulky binder, which houses his poetry. On each folio sheet there is often no more than one sentence, an English Formulation. A small sample of the contents. “Behind the skyscraper the sun shines”; “I sprinkle beach in her eyes” and “Better lazy than dad”. These are his latest. In the early stages, he was also sometimes on the tall side. However, he remained clear: ,,Off the coast of Catholica, a sunburned woman’s corpse floats on the quietly lapping waves. Next to her is the Paris Match and a packet of Lucky Strike. The golden lighter has already sunk. And this one: ,, In her eyes at last a tear shone; or was it from the contact lenses?’ And finally one for the thinkers: ,, Smyslov is a chess player. Marilyn Monroe was a woman. To be brief: from Moscow to Vladivostok (via Tashkent) there is a railroad line. What I want to say with that? The tower of Pisa is, if you are reading this, even more crooked. These samples of English Formulation, for Pieter English are cut-and-dried. He often comes up with them in the same easy chair, where he thinks up new stunts to make his wholesome one-man business march even better. Among his usually expensive E.P.O. products, a bargain hunter will also find something to his liking. For the exceptionally low price of five guilders, he can talk to him. Romantic ladies can have a dance with him for ten guilders and – after paying an extra seven guilders – get a kiss as well. Oh yes, motorists planning to visit Pieter Engels’ showroom at Prinsengracht 845 could have their car damaged by him for as little as 25 guilders! Pieter Engels’ opponents can say anything about him, but not that he sits still. He is already preparing new art, he says. In his poetry-ordner we read an English Formulation: ,, Boredom – creativity”. Loek Smits (April 23, 1966)