photo taken in 2001 at Tasting Australia
I spent a little over two years recently working for a government agency. Most specifically, I was working within the arm of the government responsible for looking after the arts. While there, one of the things I campaigned for quite aggressively (internally of course) was recognition of the culinary arts as a proper artform. And not simply as a trade. As you can imagine, very few of my colleagues sympathized with my cause. Mostly, I think, because few understood what I was going on about.
A buddy of mine, who is one of Singapore’s most talented contemporary artists, just emailed me a bit of news that has made my day (maybe even my month). Documenta is arguably the most important regular contemporary art exhibition in Europe. It takes place once every five years in the German town of Kassel. Each edition is helmed by a different artistic director, who builds his or her own curatorial team. Documenta 12, scheduled to take place 16 June 2007 – 23 September 2007, is being led by Roger Buergel.
A few months ago, Buergel announced some of the artists that he will be bringing to Kassel for this most significant and important of art exhibitions. One of those, surprisingly, was celebrity chef Ferran Adria, of El Bulli! Buergel acknowledged Adria as “the most famous chef in the world” but wouldn’t reveal the details of how Adria will be participating in the art show.
When my friend emailed me this astounding news, I quickly googled both “Documenta” and “Ferran Adria” and was surprised by how little coverage has been given to what I believe is a rather important event for the culinary world. In fact, all the reports that I found came from fine arts media. Am I just blind or has the world’s mainstream food press possibly missed out on one of the most exciting stories of recent times? For perhaps the first time, a chef has been elevated to the status that he deserves. He’s being considered a true artist and being exhibited alongside other creative geniuses from other disciplines.
Perhaps after Documenta 12, more and more non-foodies will start to recognize the culinary arts for what it is, a serious artform. One that requires just as much creativity, training and innovation as other artforms like film-making, painting, or architecture.