Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Girls Coat Piece


Innocent jacket.

Not every work can hang in a showpiece spot in the museum. In the margins you find the ‘passer-by’. Each month Wim Pijbes makes you stop and think about such a silent treasure.

If you like the sixties, you’ll always find something to your liking in Amsterdam. No era fits better with the hatsjik idea of Amsterdam tofheid. (free to Henk Hofland). And where is this image better cherished than at the Stedelijk Museum? There in the first room, I recently walked straight into a work of art unknown to me. A large rectangular yellow surface topped with a shiny white coat. Is it plastic, metal, synthetic? I couldn’t place it right away but closer up it turned out to be what it looked like; a coat. Girls’ Coat Piece’ I read on the plastic sign on the bottom edge of the panel. So a girls’ coat, I think, or rather a stylish patent leather coat for a fashionable young woman. Immediately the associations began to flow: Catherine Deneuve, Emilio Pucci, Mary Quant. How innocently it hangs here now in this museum setting beautiful to behold, as a sign from another time back then it was completely new and disruptive. We are writing 1966, the year in which Pieter Engels, then only 28 years old, made this work of art and the newly appointed director Edy de Wilde acquired it. Two years earlier he had already introduced the Netherlands to the new American pop art. It was the year that Amsterdam was marked by riots and the smoke bomb that disrupted the wedding of Princess Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg. The days of the establishment seemed numbered. Everything was going to be different. Mass media, advertising and mass consumption made their appearance in art and in the museum. The everyday became extraordinary and the extraordinary everyday. According to Andy Wharhol, who made a meteoric rise from the early 1960s and would have his first exhibition at the Urban Museum of Amsterdam in 1968, in the future everyone would experience their own fifteen minutes of fame. A prediction that seems to be coming true in our age of vloggers and bloggers.

PIETER ENGELS IS AN ARTIST WHO IS EXACTLY ON THE WAVE OF HIS TIME. He radically put painting aside in 1963 to focus on, what he himself says ,,(…) assemblages: wall objects with utility objects alienated by isolation and/or ‘Engels’ intervention’. Wonder events: vials of air exhaled by Engels. Engels cuts every valid banknote. Engels damages your car (nicely). Engels visiting etc. i.e. Engels’ intervention in objects, situations and spaces.” In short, the imagination in power in “magies sentrum” Amsterdam. For me as a contemporary visitor, this Girls’Coat Piece anno 2017 is not only a sign of the times, but above all a reference to the future. A future, which seemed more beautiful than it could ever have been.

TODAY: the everyday made extraordinary

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam