Ferran Adrià is a culinary Dali says the NY Times
The paper's art critic Roberta Smith, revels in the inspring Ferran Adrià's retrospective at the Drawing Center
Just as you might not want a restaurant reviewer to write-up the latest MoMA show, so you may grow suspicious when an art critic opens up about his or her favourite restaurants. However, the New York Times' Roberta Smith is no simple gallery maven, but a versatile writer whose insightful architecture and design journalism has been published alongside her fine-art coverage for decades.
Smith also takes an interest in food, and had the privilege to eat at Ferran Adrià's elBulli restaurant, as she reveals in her review of his exhibition at New York's Drawing Center. Smith notes that restaurant was located not so far from Salvador Dali's summer home of Cadaqués, and goes onto compare the chef with the arch-surrealist.
“The dishes that Mr Adrià and his collaborators painstakingly created at El Bulli during more than two decades were about as close to art as food gets,” Smith writes. “Visually striking, they thwarted expectations, confused the senses and tickled the mind with their transformations and disguises.”
This exhibition, Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity (on until 28 February) is the first to focus on visualisations and drawings by the chef, and also displays Ferran's notebooks, models and sketches for the new elBulli Foundation headquarters, some of the restaurant’s plasticine models – used to guide staff when plating up - as well as elBull's bespoke dishware, and documentary photographs.
The show was seen as something of a risk, as the Center more commonly exhibits works made by formal artists. Yet Smith delights in the exhibition. Indeed, what's fascinating about her review is that, while she acknowledges these works practical roles, she also picks out comparable pieces from the fine-art world.
A group of plasticine food models “evoke an installation by Tom Friedman” she writes. “Several drawings bring to mind the lists and diagrams frequent to early Conceptual Art,” she goes on. “And three elaborate charts enlarged and transferred to walls map the creative, culinary and gastronomical process with the inspirational verve of a Joseph Beuys blackboard.”
Elsewhere, Mr Adrià use of crayon and colored pencil diagrams to trace the evolution of food “bring to mind aspects of the work of Joan Snyder and Cy Twombly."
Still, for all beauty and variety of this show, Smith is able to single out Adrià’s greatest creative achievement: “While redolent of other artists’ styles, [Adrià and co.’s] efforts nonetheless convey a palpable determination to revolutionize a discipline by breaking it down and rethinking and rebuilding it from the ground up in an entirely new form.”
It’s a really great review. Read the whole thing here. For more from that hallowed archive, order a copy of our forthcoming seven-volume set, elBulli 2005-2011, which includes every recipe from the last seven years of elBulli, the world's most creative restaurant, and much more besides. If you’d like to know more about the artists Smith references, consider our Dali, Tom Friedman, Joseph Beuys, and Conceptual Art books.