Bread, pastrami and cocktails: US museums go big on food shows

Food In New York: Bigger Than The Plate is among the many food-related exhibitions on display around the US. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK – Food – a subject of universal appeal – is a big deal in many cities and especially in New York. There are delis, lots of them, and the city has a long history with the oyster.

Food In New York: Bigger Than The Plate is among the many food-related exhibitions on display around the country, while others – on food-related artwork from the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the rise of Jewish delicatessens across the United States – are travelling to various institutions.

The New York show, which opened recently at the Museum of the City of New York and is on display through Sept 30, 2023, was inspired by a 2019 exhibition with a similar name at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that “explored current experiments at every stage of the food system, from compost to table”.

Not surprisingly, the exhibition is New York-centric, adapted “to focus on eating and food systems in the Big Apple… anchored around issues of sustainability and resiliency, labour justice and equitable access to food”, says the museum.

It looks at oysters gathered by the Lenape people before the arrival of the Dutch, to the ways food is sold in New York, ranging from street sellers to the city’s 23,000 restaurants. It also looks at the vulnerabilities of the food system.

In addition, it features works by more than 20 contemporary artists and designers who use “their crafts to imagine solutions to key global and local food-related challenges”, the museum said.

Food For Thought, an exhibition from the Baltimore Museum of Industry, features photos by J.M. Giordano of food and nutrition service workers at the Baltimore City Public Schools, who prepared and distributed more than 88,000 meals daily during the 2021-22 school year, and interviews with these workers by local radio producer Aaron Henkin.

It is on display in the lobby of the headquarters of the Baltimore public schools through June 2023 as well as online. A larger exhibition on the workers will open at the museum in January 2023.

A more fanciful food exhibition is the digital Kneaded: L.A. Bread Stories, from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which is being updated through November and then available indefinitely. This features bread makers of more than 20 nationalities who operate out of mini-malls, pop-up restaurants, food trucks and corner bakeries.

The exhibition, The Art Of Food, is from the collection of Portland, Oregon-based Schnitzer and has more than 100 food-related works by more than 30 artists, including Andy Warhol, Lorna Simpson, Enrique Chagoya and Hung Liu. It originated last autumn at the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson.

“Food is complex,” said Ms Olivia Miller, interim director and curator of exhibitions at the Arizona museum, who put together the exhibition, “not only as physical necessity, but it is also integral to our communities, relationships, cultures and memories. It’s a commodity, it’s a livelihood and it has ethical implications”.

“Sometimes, people don’t fully think about the many different ways it can be considered,” she added.

The exhibition is on display at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University in Oregon and will travel to the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in Oklahoma City in February.

A photo provided by Deann Orr shows Malia Jensen’s “Butterscape,” 2008, in “The Art of Food” exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University. PHOTO: NYTIMES

I’ll Have What She’s Having: The Jewish Deli originated earlier this year at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. It will travel to the New-York Historical Society in November, where it will be expanded to include photos of local delis, deli owners’ items and costumes from the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017 to present).

Looking ahead, in February, the Bard Graduate Center in New York will offer Staging The Table In Europe 1500-1800, exploring the history of dining customs and culture in Italy, Germany, France, England and the Netherlands.

Food and museum enthusiasts can even combine their passions at home.

Earlier this month, Rizzoli published Cocktails With A Curator, a collection of essays based on the Frick Collection’s wildly popular YouTube series born in the first year of the pandemic and viewed by almost two million people worldwide.

In each of the 65 episodes, a Frick curator offers insights on a work of art in the museum’s collection – a painting, sculpture or decorative art – as well as a related cocktail. NYTIMES

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