Milan’s Triennale Design Museum spills the beans on the art of food (and food of art)

'Arts & Food' is a never-ending feast of food-related objects, tools, paintings, installations, rooms and ambiences. Pictured is a replica of Marcel Duchamp's 'Bottle Rack' of 1914. Courtesy of GNAM - Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna
(Image credit: GNAM)

Milan's Expo is still one month away, but the very first pavilion dedicated to the universal exhibition - and the only one that will be located in the city centre -  has opened its doors inside Milan's Triennale Design Museum. Entitled 'Arts & Foods: Rituals since 1851', the exhibition takes on the Expo's overarching theme of sustainable food but peers at it with an artistic lens. And the results are, in a word, delectable.

Curated by Germano Celant, the prolific artistic director of the Prada Foundation and curator of Milan's Fondazione Aldo Rossi, the exhibition sprawls across the entire 7,000 square metres of the museum, including its outdoor garden. It's like a never-ending feast of food-related objects, tools, paintings, installations, rooms and ambiences from 1851 to the present.

The first room of the exhibition, dedicated to the period between 1851 and 1948, is the most densely packed, cohesively designed and powerfully conceived. It features a fascinating mix of antique cooking tools, kitchen furniture and butcher stations to real Florentine bars from the early 20th century that have been painstakingly reconstructed, bottle-by-bottle. A magnificent collection of antique silverware, loaned by Milan's famous G. Lorenzi cutlery company, is on show, as are thoughtful portraits of chefs by Monet and Manet and an array of mid-century kitchen accessories.

Other rooms are dedicated to the 1950s, 60s and 70s, as well as to contemporary art's dealings with food. It's a tribute to Celant's profile that he's managed to wrangle top works by major artists such as Andy Warhol ('The Last Supper' and his infamous Campbell's soup cans), Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Tom Sachs, Marc Quinn and Urs Fischer (whose 'Bread House' smells just a little bit stale after nearly 10 years of circulation), even though their assembly makes less impact than the first historical room. No matter; Paul McCarthy's giant, inflatable ketchup bottle, which has been planted in the centre of the Triennale's lush park like a plastic skyscraper, makes up for it.

Also noteworthy is Gaetano Pesce's site-specific installation (the only one in the whole museum) which features giant pieces of kitchenware on a glass floor along with a group of actors chatting, cooking and fighting (what kitchen hasn't seen that?), all visible by nosy viewers looking up from the floor beneath.

This ambitious exhibit shines the spotlight on Milan's Triennale, shaking up this sometimes sleepy institution just in time for the Expo. Not only is the green garden in full aperitivo action but it also has water in its fountains for the first time in 50 years, thanks to the restoration of Giorgio de Chirico's 'Bagni Misteriosi'.  In tandem with the brimming activity is a proper - and long overdue - restaurant opening up on the museum's first floor that features a balcony overlooking the park.


Row upon row of kitchen mid-century kitchen accessories.

(Image credit: Gianluca di Ioia)

Triennale Bar

A faithful reconstruction of a real Florentine bar from the early 20th century, painstakingly rebuilt, bottle-by-bottle.

(Image credit: JJ Martin)

Triennale Prouve

Jean Prouvé's prefab house takes on its 1956 guise, 'La Maison des Jours Meilleurs'.

(Image credit: © Galerie Patrick Seguin)

Triennale Fischer 1

'Bread House' by Urs Fischer, 2004-2006, smelling just a little bit stale after nearly 10 years of circulation.

(Image credit: A Maranzano)


The pavilion exhibition celebrates over 150 years of design. Here, a mural of microwaves serves to remind that the machine reigns supreme.

(Image credit: Gianluca di Ioia)

Triennale Warhol

Curator Germano Celant has managed to wrangle top works by major artists of the likes of Andy Warhol. Pictured here is his 'Campbell's Soup I Portfolio' from 1968.

(Image credit: JJ Martin)

Triennale Warhol

'The Last Supper (Camel/57)', by Andy Warhol, 1986.

(Image credit: JJ Martin)

Triennale Lorenzi

A magnificent collection of 314 pieces of antique silverware is on show, loaned by Milan's famous G Lorenzi cutlery company.

(Image credit: JJ Martin)

Triennale Cindy Sherman

'Untitled #235', by Cindy Sherman, 1987-1991. Courtesy of the Pierre Huber Collection

(Image credit: Pierre Huber Collection)

Triennale Arman

The title of 'Artériosclérose' by Arman, 1961 – an accumulation of rusting forks and spoons in a box - translates as 'Atherosclerosis', or clogged arteries. Courtesy of Arman Studio Archive

(Image credit: Arman Studio Archive)

Triennale Wesselmann

'Still Life #8', by Tom Wesselmann, 1962. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, NY.

(Image credit: Jeffrey Sturges)

Triennale Apples

'Apples in a Porcelain Basket', by Sharon Core, 2007.

(Image credit: © Sharon Core. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson)

Triennale Claes

'Leaning Fork with Meatball and Spaghetti II', by Claes Olsenberg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1994. Courtesy of Pace Gallery, London

(Image credit: Pace Gallery)

Triennale Mc Carthy

Paul McCarthy's giant, inflatable ketchup bottle, planted in the Triennale's lush park like a plastic skyscraper.

(Image credit: A Maranzano)


Triennale di Milano
Viale Alemagna 6
Milan 20121


JJ Martin