To commemorate the London Food Month, a month-long celebration of food conjuring up over 400 events across the city, we have gathered a selection of artists from around the world who focus on and involve food in their work. The creators of these pieces use the physicality and history of food to give their art meaning, both obvious and subliminal.
Food was created for consumption through the use of our mouths, but not everybody has the capability of digesting with their eyes. So put the paintbrushes, cameras and tools aside, and open your brain-buds to the sweet and savoury side of the art realm!
Vik Muniz’s Valentina, The Fastest, from the ‘Sugar Children’ series (1996)
Vik Muniz has often used food to realise his impressive works. In a meticulous process and using a wide range of materials like sugar, chocolate and caviar, the artist recreates well-known images such as masterpieces or photographs. Viewed from a distance, the similarity of his works to its originals are striking. However, when seen up close the images turn the viewer’s attention to its symbolic meaning through the contextual use of materials. For example, for the Sugar Children series, Muniz took pictures of local children while on holidays in the Caribbean. Upon returning home, he recreated these images by arranging sugar on black paper. Embedded with irony, the sugar connotes both the essence of childhood and the hard labour of the local trade.
Chloe Wise’s Moschino English Muffin (2015)
Chloe Wise uses food as a recurring motif in her work. This artwork is a replica of a Moschino bag but made of English muffins, urethane, oil paint, leather, hardware and butter container. From Wise’s Bread Bags series, the artist playfully parodies high-fashion designer logos using bread as a symbol of status and wealth and hints to the uselessness of beautiful objects. It seems the artist is making a play on the word consumption meaning both indulging in food and overspending on superficial and unnecessary belongings. She elegantly comments on current societal trends and hierarchy in a fun and trendy fashion, managing to make highly expensive, chic and timeless bags look so good that it also undermines their value and draws attention to the meaningless nature of trends. The viewer is made to question: do I really need this or do I just want it?
Pope.L, Claim (Whitney Version) (2017)
Pope.L (aka William Pope.L) has a long history of enacting arduous, provocative, absurdist performances and interventions in public spaces. Featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial. Claim is a giant pink cube with 2,755 slices of real bologna sausage nailed to it, slowing rotting over time and stinking up space, each affixed with a black and white photocopied snapshot of a person. From day one, the oily juices from the food were cooling into small basins that run along the floor, so the meat was not really rotting but actually curing, referencing the curing or healing of people. It is a recognition of people as human beings and not numbers. As the meat cures, the photograph is contorted, making the viewer question who are these people and if it really matters?
Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Soup/No Soup (2012)
Rirkrit Tiranvanija uses human interaction as his primary material. And what better way to bring people together than through a mutual love for food? For the prelude of La Triennale 2012’s opening, Rirkrit was invited to transform the main nave of the Grand Palais into a festive, large-scale, twelve-hour banquet composed of a single meal. The artist creates innovative initiatives to involve the public into the art making process, bridging the gap between public and private art and negating the notion of art as an upper-class enjoyment.
Agnes Denes’ Wheatfield – A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan (1982)
The area we now know as Battery Park City and the World Financial Center was once used by Agnes Denes’ to create her one of her most notorious works. Over a six-month period in 1982, Denes planted a field of golden wheat on two acres of rubble-strewn landfill. She explains: “Wheatfield was a symbol, a universal concept. It represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns. It was an intrusion into the citadel, a confrontation of high civilisation. Then again, it was also Shangri-la, a small paradise, one’s childhood, a hot summer afternoon in the country, peace, forgotten values, simple pleasures.” Denes is a pioneer in Land Art and highlights the controversies such as world hunger through her expansive and impressive installations.
Peter Anton, Pink Confetti Cake (2012)
Peter Anton is an American artist and sculptor whose primary focus is food, with an emphasis on sweets and chocolates. The artist has a particularly interesting way of creating his artwork whereby he first needs to experience it through taste, smell and touch, to then thoroughly dissect his subject before depicting it. This intricate observation of his subjects shines through in his works which could fool anyone into believing they’re real, if not for their oversized nature. His nearly obsessive focus on all things sweet may be a hint to the human need and want for things which were once better enjoyed in moderation. An example is how through history in many cultures following a religious occasion a sweet would be offered as a special treat, however now people come up with any reason to consume sugar… Or just no reason at all.