V&A Museum Launches Unique Sustainable Food Exhibition

25 Jan 2019
3 min read
As Marije Vogelzang once stated, “Food is the most important material in the world.” 

Launching this May, FOOD: Bigger than the Plate will explore how innovative individuals, communities and organisations are radically re-inventing how we grow, distribute and experience food. Taking visitors to the famous British museum on a sensory journey through the food cycle, from compost to table, the new exhibition aims to pose questions about how the collective choices we make can lead to a more sustainable, just and delicious food future in unexpected and playful ways.

The exhibition falls at a pivotal time where food and our relationship to it are topics of increasing global interest and debate. Featuring over 70 contemporary projects, new commissions and creative collaborations by artists and designers working with chefs, farmers, scientists and local communities, it will be split into four sections: ‘Compost’, ‘Farming’, ‘Trading’ and ‘Eating’.

Taking a fresh, experimental and often provocative perspective, projects will present ideas and alternative food futures from gastronomic experiments to creative interventions in farming, with several exhibits physically growing in the gallery space.

1 Compost
‘Compost’ will showcase diverse projects that aim to create a more resilient food system by closing the nutrient loop and changing our perception of waste. Daily Dump’s pioneering system for home composting in India uses beautiful handcrafted terracotta pots to challenge the stigma of handling waste, whilst designer Fernando Laposse works with the discarded husks of colourful heirloom corn varieties in Mexico to create a new marquetry material, Totomoxtle, that supports agricultural biodiversity.

GroCycle’s Urban Mushroom Farm installation in the gallery will also illustrate the idea of a circular economy by using waste coffee grounds, including grounds from the V&A Benugo café, to grow edible Oyster mushrooms. Once fully grown, these will be harvested and taken back into the café to be served in selected dishes.

2 Farming
Exploring bold ideas to reinvent our relationships with the landscapes, organisms and people that yield our food, ‘Farming’ will look at innovative urban, open-source and social farming projects, as well as exploring how new technologies might change the way we grow and farm the plants and animals we eat. These include a pedal-powered Bicitractor developed by Farming Soul to support small-scale farming, and a working version of MIT’s Food Computer, an open source controlled-environment platform that precisely replicates natural conditions to grow crops in unexpected places.

The section will also feature a major new commission by artists Fallen Fruit who will create a bespoke 12-metre squared wallpaper for the museum. This will draw on the V&A’s collections and the horticultural history of the site – which was once an important nursery for fruit trees – to explore the past and contemporary role of fruit in creating shared culture.

3 Trading
‘Trading’ will pose questions about more transparent and diverse ways of buying, selling and transporting food. Early food adverts will shine a light on trading history, whilst contemporary exhibits will bring together projects that make supply chains visible – such as Banana Passport by Björn Steinar Blumenstein and Johanna Seeleman – and initiatives that reconnect consumers and producers in new ways. 

4 Eating
The pleasure of cooking and eating, and how a meal connects us culturally, socially and politically, will be explored through projects by Ferran Adrià, Michael Rakowitz, Lubaina Himid and Grizedale Arts among others. It will consider the role of the table, the challenges we face in feeding the world, and the power of deliciousness, as well as looking at scientific projects, ingredients and recipes which push the boundaries of ingenuity in cooking.

Examples include Carolien Niebling’s The Sausage of the Future, and Christina Agapakis and Sissel Tolaas’ Selfmade project, culturing cheese from human bacteria to explore our relationship with themicrobial world – prompting questions about our notions of taste. 

This timely exhibition draws on the V&A’s close links with food, including thirty historic objects from the V&A collections – influential early food adverts, illustrations and ceramics – providing further context to the exhibition. Built on the site of Brompton Nursery, the V&A housed an early food museum and over 150 years ago opened the world’s first purpose-built museum refreshment rooms. The V&A café, catered by Benugo, remains central to the museum, linking food culture and the visual arts.

The details
When: 18 May–20 October 2019.
Cost: £17, concessions from £13.
Bookings: Click here to make a ticket reservation.