Pieter Engels (1938, Rosmalen) moved to Amsterdam in 1958 and finished the Rijksakademie in 1962. Two years later he made a stir founding EPO (Engels Products Organization). The ‘company’ was housed in a showroom on Prinsengracht and organized annual sales events of not usable furniture and shiny objects, referred to as products. The works were then sold together with a folder magnifying the product. Engels presented himself not as an artist but as the director of this firm.
Serialization, critique of the consumer society, sense of irony, questioning the role of the artist: these are the crucial features of the period and the EPO products are their extreme manifestation.
In this period the Amsterdam art scene was characterized by freedom and creative noise. In 1969 the Stedelijk presented the latest developments in art in the legendary exhibition ‘Op Losse Schroeven’.
Artists such as Lawrence Weiner, Sol le Witt and Robert Barry used to visit Amsterdam often and for long periods, Gilbert & George performed posing for hours on the stairs of the Stedelijk.
Engels can be seen as an actor of the cultural vivacity of the period, but he kept his independent position. He explicitly admits that the variety and inconsistency of his work are one of his strengths.
His practice is very diversified. It includes actions, texts, objects, paintings and some of his works do not have much more in common than the use of the same kind of technique or material.
However there are some general concepts that are central in his work. Probably the most important one is the investigation of the meaning of being an artist. This investigation is pursued with irony, often using paradoxes and through the principles of reversal and destruction.
It is paradoxical the way he affirmed that his works were not made by an artist but produced by his firm EPO. Thus questioning the intrinsic value of a work of art, for instance pricing it according to his weight.
The principle of reversal engages ordinary situations and objects. For instance, the ‘Repaired chairs’ now on show were ‘destructed’ and repaired in an disfunctional way.
Finally, the principle of destruction applies to the artwork itself and at the same time to the creative process. Sometimes it is pushed against the public. A striking example might be a performance held in a space full of philatelists where he cut the most precious stamps or smoking his autographs as a cigarette.
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