Food and art. Could there be a better pair? Starting this past 15th of March and continuing until the 26th of June, La Pedrera’s exhibition hall offers a wide-ranging vision of the intimate relationship between art and food over the centuries. The Art of Eating (L’Art del Menjar) – From Still Life to Ferran Adrià.
Haute cuisine is one of the areas of culture in which creativity has reached the highest standards of excellence and innovation. Ferran Adrià with El Bulli have been tantamount to the recent success of culinary delicacies and every day there are more haute chefs pushing the boundaries, presenting truly innovative eating experiences.
Divided into five different sections, The Art of Eating starts with a sampling of still life paintings, photographs, installations and videos. Although the common denominator is food in all of its’ guises, the exhibition lacks a coherent narrative thread. Each section works magnificently by itself and yes, the underlying theme is present and obvious. Yet, it seems like a jumbled mix, a striving effort to forcefully find culinary art representative throughout the different centuries.
La Pedrera’s exhibition hall is usually hit or miss. The previous Mariscal exhibition was extremely good, as well as the Fortuny retrospective. The Art of Eating meanders from one section to another with very abrupt breaks. Sections two and three take in the avant-garde trends of the 20th century. Here the pieces of art are thought-provoking and challenge one to think about current issues, related to food and otherwise. I love this life-size, cheese grater folding screen by Mona Hatoum.
The show seems to be gathering force to end with a section on Ferran Adrià and El Bulli. Actually, the entire purpose of the show seems to be to once again shine the spotlight on the Catalan chef. Yes, Adrià is a culinary genius. Yes, he’s Catalan. Yes, we’re proud of him. Yes, there are now other chefs in the world that are going beyond what he has done for the world of haute cuisine. It’s time to share the spotlight with others. The Art of Eating showcases work by artists from all over the world, so why end so firmly with a Catalan example? It seemed to be a statement of “Case closed, we’ve done it all, there’s nothing more to see or be done in the future”.
The real pity is that most interesting section of L’Art del Menjar, the penultimate area dedicated to three artists and their respective restaurants during the ’60s and ’70s. Daniel Spoerri (Restaurant Spoerri in Düsseldorf 1968 – 1972), Gordon Matta-Clark (Food restaurant in New York 1971 – 1973) and Miralda (El Internacional in New York 1984 – 1986) used their restaurants as artistic research labs and workshops. Spectators became participants, literally eating the artists work. Miralda is actually Catalan! The surface is barely scratched in this section.
The Art of Eating leaves you hungry, both physically and emotionally. I like to be provoked by art yet this time, there wasn’t enough to go on. Go and take a look, eat something before and be prepared to leave wanting more.
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