Can you eat a work of art?
According to Nicola Costantino, a Latin American contemporary artist whose work has been shown from New York to Taipei, at Art Basel, the Venice Biennale, and museums like the MOMA or the Guggenheim in New York city, you most certainly can. And take our word, it will also be beyond heavenly.
Over the last few years, Nicola has been working on recreating Bosch’s masterpiece “Garden of Earthly Delights” through what she calls “Art of Food”, a fully edible art experience that engages the spectators’ five senses.
The inspiration for Art of Food originated from the artist’s admiration of Bosch’s ability to remain frightfully timely even after more than five hundred years. “No one quite depicts the notion of timelessness as accurately as Bosch”-she says. There is also Nicola’s inherent innovative nature which will relentlessly push her to question any old notions of what does or doesn’t qualify as art.
Hegel was only partially right.
The renowned German philosopher Georg Hegel established that art could be perceived exclusively through hearing and sight, hence it would be unfair -he felt- for utilitarian objects to be considered works of art. Roughly, two hundred years later, Nicola Costantino is determined to challenge Hegel’s views. To do so, her Art of Food exhibition features a car as part of the theme. Not just any car but a Lexus ES F Sport. “Driving a perfect machine like a Lexus is a sensorial experience as I sit in and become one with the machine”. And the artist will go on to prove Hegel’s old take on art is half-baked at best. “Driving a Lexus, wearing a silk gown or eating a sumptuous meal. All of these experiences are faultlessly functional because of their perfect working order and aesthetic because of their irresistible beauty. They are artistic experiences” -she concludes.
On heavenly gardens
Costantino concedes that one of Art of Food’s most challenging aspects was figuring out a way to turn Bosch’s Fountain of Life into a real object – “So, the Fountain of Life would no longer be a product of Bosch’s imagination but a tangible object in real life. It was like a sudden archaeological find that none of us knew about, so I built it as close as possible to what I figured the real Fountain of Life would look like in real life.” The garden surrounding the Fountain of Life is a cornucopia that offers spectators attending the exhibition the joy of taking and eating all sort of delicacies, but it does so strictly in the way animals or insects eat -“I have flowers made by handblown glass that hold cold soups, and people have to suck those flowers as if they were hummingbirds. There are trees that hold spheres filled with food and spectators can eat what they want, it’s all very visual, and it’s all connected to nature.”
The intersection of art, food and supreme engineering.
Engineering is about making the unrecognizable recognizable, turning the unfamiliar into familiar. Art is the opposite. It is seeing something that one may have seen a hundred times before but in a different light. The antithesis that rends the two apart now seems to converge right around Costantino’s Art of Food exhibition. “Whether functional or artistic, all of those things that can be felt across all of our senses constitute an artistic experience. And the memory of such artistic experience seems to me even more important than the artistic object per se”. We can’t help but agree as there is definitely something magical about Costantino’s Art of Food. From the handblown glass flowers, to the Nerikomi hand-made pottery, the paintings, the exquisite food, the lighting design, the magnificent Fountain of Life, the music and the mist of the Lexus Takumi craftmanship pervading the space, suddenly function turns into emotion, performance into experience and art into imagination.