One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters; It’s the only way. So as not to feel time’s horrible burden that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk. But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk. (From Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire).
When Marlene Dumas was commissioned to design a coaster for Café Schiller, a popular bar in Amsterdam, she found her inspiration in Charles Baudelaire’s poem, Be Drunk. The poem resonated with Dumas, whose youth was spent on her family’s vineyard in South Africa, and whose personal “drunkenness” of choice has always been art making. In keeping with the ephemeral nature of the project, Dumas quickly doodled a woman’s body and the vague outline of a head that accompanied a short excerpt of Be Drunk in Dutch.
In the years after World War I Café Schiller was a popular gathering spot for Amsterdam’s writers and entertainers. To resurrect the bar’s artistic pedigree in 1992 new owners commissioned coasters from the celebrated Dumas, and fellow Dutch artists Erik Andriesse, Kees de Goede and Maarten Ploeg. The plan was simple but it worked well. Three years later in 1995, four more coasters were commissioned, this time from Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt, Tim Ayres and Marien Schouten.
Now, Dumas’ passion for Baudelaire has resurfaced again. This year’s bicentennial of Baudelaire’s birth (1821-1867) is being marked by the Musée D’Orsay in Paris with Marlene Dumas, Le Spleen de Paris, an exhibition inspired by Baudelaire’s book of the same title that included Be Drunk. For Baudelaire “spleen,” le cafard in French, meant melancholy and depression, sentiments often echoed in Dumas’ own art. Her exhibition remains on view in Paris through January 30, 2022.
In January 2022 Gallery 98 will be debuting a comprehensive exhibition of Dumas art ephemera that spans her whole career. In the meantime, check our selection of other art ephemera exhibitions.
Lawrence Weiner, Marien Schouten, Sol LeWitt, Tim Ayres, Drink Coasters, Cafe Schiller, 1995. Photo courtesy of Specific Object