There has long been a connection between food and art. Post-Impressionist painters would famously pay for their meals in paintings, kicking off the artwork-in-a-restaurant aesthetic.
Some have taken this to the next step, such as the formaldehyde cow-in-a-restaurant look that Mark Hix has gone for at his London restaurant Tramshed. You can’t miss the giant Damien Hirst ‘artwork’ of a cock and bull which references the chicken and beef dishes on the menu. It’s hard to focus on your whole stuffed upside down chicken with the suspended animals in your line of sight.
Salvador Dali purposely created art with maximum shock value and has inspired many in the restaurant business. Dali Café & Art in Riga is a culinary temple to the great Surrealist artist which includes plenty of his trademark motifs like eyes, lips, curved lines and draped fabric.
Melting clocks come by way of the chocolate crepe, served to look like The Persistence of Memory. There are also plenty of blue and gold tones, Dali’s favorite colors, to highlight the eccentric fit-out.
The idea of food itself becoming the artwork is growing in popularity. My all-time favourite foodie artists are Bompass & Parr, two English gents who call themselves jellymongers.
Their CV has the most absurd but fantastical list of projects you could imagine; a chocolate waterfall in the middle of a shopping centre, flooding part of the Selfridges roof to create a lolly water emerald boating lake, glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jellies…
I was lucky enough to stumble across one of their installations at a UK festival in 2010. The boys constructed the ‘Ziggurat of Flavour’ at the Big Chill Festival, consisting of a giant black and white pyramid filled with a heady mist of breathable fruit. You literally inhaled the thick orange cloud made from pulverised oranges and lemons. An airborne shot of Vitamin C if you like. Once you’d walked upwards through the labyrinth of vaporised fruit you would take the slide from the top back down to the ground.
Then there is art for home cooks.
Cue my favourite dessert book, Modern Art Desserts by Caitlin Freeman. If the Mondrian cake on the cover doesn’t draw you in then perhaps the Diebenkorn trifle or Matisse parfait will do the trick.
Caitlin Freeman is the pastry chef at Blue Bottle Coffee in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and was inspired to create edible versions of the artworks within the museum. Each recipe sits next to an image of the artwork and a curator’s notes on the original piece so you can compare your creation to the original, if you dare.
When it comes to food as art I think Russian food stylist Tatiana Shkondina does this better than anyone else.
Shkondina recreates work by Van Gogh, Dali, Magritte and Klimt using a range of ingredients like grains, salmon, fruit and vegetables. She chooses artworks that are in ‘food’ colours and simple forms, draws sketches and uses food products that best match to the art by colours, textures, forms and point of origin.
Japanese food was obviously the inspiration for this installation by art students I came across outside the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Called ‘human sushi’, it invited willing participants to be rolled up into a nori roll for the a class assignment. Thankfully they stopped before any cutting and serving took place.
I love the idea that art is at the heart of food. And food is the protagonist of art. Pro Hart was definitely onto something.