L'art del menjar
Eyebrows were raised, to say the least, when Ferran Adrià of El Bulli was invited to exhibit at Documenta in Kassell in 2007. Does food star equal art star in the 21st century? The answer to that question remains unclear four years later, but there is a lot of, ahem, food for thought in the current exhibition at La Pedrera.
The relationship between art and food, from the heyday of the 17th-century Dutch still life via Cézanne’s luscious bowls of fruit to the Cubist breakdown of food forms in the early 20th century is well-trodden territory in art history and exhibitions. This Catalunya Caixa show brings in some representative samples from the past few centuries, with few surprises. (Although there is an wonderfully unexpected Chaim Soutine still life painting of a beef carcass that I had never seen.) It’s the contemporary artworks that shock and delight in this exhibition.
Canadian artist Jana Sterbak’s 1996 sculpture is an armchair made out of slabs of meat that rivals for repulsiveness her more famous meat dress, which is NOT here (nor is Lady Gaga’s). British photographer Sam Taylor-Wood is represented by a time-lapse video of still-life fruit rotting before your very eyes. Vanitas indeed.
The exhibition takes a turn away from its own theme at certain points, featuring the work of artists who use the accoutrements of the kitchen, rather than the food itself, as art. (Mona Hatoum’s Grater Divide, a metal screen shaped like a cheese grater, is a brilliant example.)
Adrià himself is lavishly represented in the galleries, as is fellow Catalan Antoní Miralda, who took his tapas to Tribeca several decades ago with his El Internacional restaurant and never looked back.
A note to the Catalunya Caixa galleries and the curators: if ever there was an exhibition that screamed out for the medium to be listed on the wall labels, this is it. It is impossible to tell, for example, if an enormous potful of mussel shells is REALLY mussel shells or a ceramicist’s clever re-thinking of the subject. Or if a photorealist still life is a painting or, in fact, a photo. It’s an important consideration to chew on.
L'Art del Menjar. La Pedrera. Until June 26th