How art was personified in ‘Beef’
(Credit: Netflix)

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How art was personified in 'Beef'

Beef is the newest hit series currently streaming on Netflix, produced by A24. Starring the very talented Ali Wong portraying Amy Lau and Steven Yeun as Danny Cho, the series is a major hit. The story revolves around a singular road rage incident that changes the lives of the aforementioned individuals. Another element in the show that played its own character is how art was personified. 

The art is Beef is a character of its own. It is all over the series, from the title cards by David Choe to George’s (Joseph Lee) father’s chairs. In every way art has been represented, it actively affects the narrative. 

Before diving into the particularities of this character within the show, it is important to understand the way art has been depicted within the narrative itself. Amy Lau plays the character belonging to the elitist circle, whilst Danny Cho belongs to the struggling family of businessmen. It is evident how art plays a more important role amongst the elitist, from Geroge’s complex structures to Jordan’s mask collection and essentially her whole house. 

Art has been represented as an elitist necessity. Overall the depth of its effect has been enunciated with quiet cinematography in Amy’s life and chaotic in Danny’s. That being said, let’s dive deeper into the various interpretations of the same within the show. 

How art was represented in Beef

Title scenes by David Choe

The title scenes for each series episode have been created by cousin Isaac on the show himself. Portrayed by David Choe, cousin Isaac plays the role of an overly aggressive brother to Danny. For the title scenes, he used his own artworks, which are quite vividly inspired by the famous Spanish painter Francisco Goya.

The artworks themselves mirror the darkness represented by Goya’s ‘black paintings’ that he created towards the demise of his own life. These artworks are grotesque and perfectly in sync with the show’s central themes of frustration, dark desires, and catharsis. 

The chairs in Beef

Amy’s husband, George, played by Joseph Lee in the show, is the son of a great artist. One of his favourite pieces on the show is the well-known Tamago chair, amongst several others in the series. Amy and her husband attend the art show and exhibit the 65 chairs made by his legendary late father.

Most of the art represented in the show had been made or curated in-house by the production team itself. They went through several chairs before settling on anyone. Their choice depended on several factors, including the demonstration of various periods and even a few just for fun. 

The special ‘Tamago’ chair was made out of stone and shaped like an egg. It was a unique design with three legs, something that the team was looking for. This one particularly was made after several trials to ensure people could sit on it. The journey for the print of the rear end was quite a ride for the team itself, from forms and ideas to personification. 

Jordan’s home 

Jordan, played by Maria Bello, is shown as a filthy rich person in the show. Her actions are erratic and unpredictable, thus, the production wanted to replicate the essence of her personality through her house. The whole house was a masterpiece itself, challenging conventional rectangular living spaces.

As Jordan’s hobby was collecting art, it made sense that her house was filled with it. Another editorial choice that stood out was created by the set decorator with the collaboration of the production team. They decided to make the furniture inaccessible, unfriendly, and uninviting. The house is filled with weird pieces. However, they look exclusive enough for Jordan to want them in her house.

For the crowns present in the room, the team wanted to create all of the sixteen pieces but decided not to do so for budgetary restrictions. One of the crowns particularly caught my attention was the one which was a golden headdress in the shape of a bird. The crown had earrings based on ancient Peruvian culture. However, most of the other crowns were props. The creators wanted to elaborate on Jordan’s lack of awareness and cultural appropriation by using her whole house as a prop to convey it. 

George’s art 

In an exclusive interview, production designer Grace Yun discusses every piece of art or creative direction choice made throughout the filming of this enormous new series centred on art, pain, and catharsis. Similarly, the journey in George’s art has been expressed with close attention to the transformation in his sculptures as well. Made by the art department in-house, the creators focused closely on the details of the sculptures. The hidden hint was that he was underappreciated for his work, reflecting his father’s character of not being good at business.

From being floaty and unrestricted to being rough around the edges. George’s abundance in time is reflected in his artworks. However, when Amy hurts him, his art also takes up more space, literally and figuratively. Not just in his studio physically but also in their house. 
The whole series of Beef is a masterpiece in itself, from the art to the acting. There have been no loose threads while tying this tight knot holistically.

If you haven’t caught the chance to watch this show, take this as your hint to watch it now on Netflix.