14 Succulent Works of Chocolate Art, From Ruscha's Room to Abramovic's Lips
This year, for Valentine's Day, we got you this article-shaped box of delicious chocolate artworks. Some of them are sweet, others tend toward the bitter end of the flavor spectrum, a few are very dark, and one is white, but all of them have a distinct taste and form that makes them delectable and unique. Best of all, though these chocolate artworks may melt in your mouth, they are all extremely rigorous.
Marina Abramovic, “Chocolate Golden Lips” (2010)
A much less well-known but similarly endearing work that capped Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present” marathon at MoMA was the “Gold Ball” performance piece that took place at the closing-night dinner, in which guests applied 24-karat gold leaf to their lips before tasting a “gold ball” dessert prepared by Abramovic from a special Tibetan recipe. The premise was based, appropriately, around the spiritual rewards of a period of fasting. Party favors for the night consisted of a series of limited edition dark-chocolate pieces cast from a mold of Abramovic’s mouth, dusted with 24-karat gold — a sweet way to end 700 hours of silence. Since, the works have occasionally popped up on eBay — one recently sold for $406.
Sonja Alhäuser, “Braunes Bad” (2009)
Alhäuser almost exclusively works with edible sweets and, in a bid to relinquish the concept of art’s immortality, her exhibitions of marzipan vitrines and chocolate pedestals invite guests to destroy them by breaking off and eating chunks. Performances with “Braunes Bad” (“Brown Bath”) have featured the artist literally bathing in chocolate; in installations of the work, visitors are also allowed to dive in.
Janine Antoni, “Lick and Lather” (1993-94)
In an interview with art21, Antoni described the process of making this series of edible self-portrait sculpture bust thusly: “I made a mold, melted down thirty-five pounds of chocolate, poured it into the mold. And when I took it out of the mold, I re-sculpted my image by licking the chocolate.” Seven versions of the piece are included in the New Museum's current exhibition “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star,” which must have made for a delicious day in the Antoni studio. “It took a long time to make the pieces,” Antoni added. “We spent several hours in the tub together. And I think what’s important about that is that we were very intimate with each other.”
Leandro Erlich, “You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too” (2009)
The Argentinian artist succeeded not just in creating an incredibly realistic replica of a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Barcelona couch for Kreemart and the American Patrons of Tate's Haunch of Venison Cake Party in 2009, but also made it completely edible. The recliner was so realistic that people couldn't decide whether to sit on it or eat the angel food cake hidden underneath the layer of leathery-looking chocolate.
Anya Gallaccio, “Stroke” (1994)
As with many of her works, the artist’s 1994 installation of chocolate-covered wall hangings and a bench put a morbid twist on temptation, with the deteriorative process of oxidization gradually transforming the work into an aesthetic tableau of decay. The result was something like “death of chocolate,” as opposed to “death by chocolate.”
Terence Koh, “Untitled (Chocolate Mountains)” (2006)
Though critics couldn't muster much love for the New Museum's 2010 exhibition “Skin Fruit,” for which Jeff Koons curated a selection of works belonging to mega-collector Dakis Joannou, the sweet smell that Koh's drippy towers of white chocolate cast across the gallery proved irresistible for most visitors.
Lernert & Sander, “Chocolate Bunny” (2007)
Though perhaps more Easter- than Valentine’s Day-related, the Dutch design/art duo’s macabre short video puts a darkly comic twist on “I’ll melt with you” — in just under three minutes of anthropomorphic horror, we watch three chocolate bunnies, in three different pastel-painted scenarios, die three different slow deaths under the dissolving heat of a handheld household appliance (an iron, lamp, and hair dryer). The background lullaby soundtrack lends what would seem like straight camp an adult sense of tragedy and childish sense of glee, and captivated Internet audiences around the world.
Paul McCarthy, Chocolate Santa with Butt Plug (2007)
Paul McCarthy's chocolate Santa-shaped butt plugs spiced up the holiday season in 2007, as part of an art pop-up project at Maccarone Gallery in the West Village. McCarthy set up a working chocolate factory for six weeks in the space, where he produced approximately 1,000 of the edible figures daily, and sold them for $100 each to naughty buyers.
Egle Rakauskaite, “Chocolate Crucifixes” (1996/2004)
For the 2004 October Art Salon in Belgrade, the Lithuanian artist Egle Rakauskaite — whose works have included human hair, jasmine flowers, fat, and honey, among other organic and perishable materials — recreated her 1996 installation using dozens of chocolate sculptures representing Christ on the cross, half of them upside-down, to create an ornate wall pattern.
Dieter Roth and Björn Roth, “Selbstturm (Self Tower)” (1994-2013)
This installation by the father-son team involves a fully functional sculpture studio — whose material of choice just happens to be chocolate — working in the gallery to produce stacks and stacks of delicious busts. A version of the 1994 original, which is housed at the Dieter Roth Foundation’s Schimmelmuseum in Germany, is currently churning out chocolate sculptures at Hauser & Wirth's new location in Chelsea. Just don't count on snapping one up for a last-minute Valentine's Day gift — they're out of most people's price range.
Jennifer Rubell, Chocolate Jeff Koons Runny (2009)
For its 2009 gala, New York's performance art biennial Performa tapped food artist — and collector progeny — Jennifer Rubell to create a messy and decadent feast with biblical undertones in the former DIA Art Foundation building in Chelsea. In addition to a room whose ceiling dripped with honey and a giant pile of BBQ ribs, Rubell created a set of chocolate bunnies in the style of Jeff Koons's iconic stainless steel sculptures, which diners were invited to smash with a hammer.
Ed Ruscha, “Chocolate Room” (1970)
While many of the U.S. artists invited by curator Henry Hopkins to exhibit in the American Pavilion at the 35th Venice Biennale declined in protest of the conflict in Vietnam, Ruscha (who originally intended to decline as well) sweetened to the idea, and eventually covered the walls of an entire gallery with sheets of paper that had been screenprinted with chocolate. Protesters attending the Biennale etched anti-war messages into the chocolate, effectively reclaiming it as a protest monument; later in the summer ants were attracted by the pungent chocolate odor and began eating the installation.
Hannah Wilke, “Venus Pareve” (1982-84)
The female body was a recurring motif in feminist conceptual art icon Hannah Wilke's work throughout her career, from her folded clay pieces from the 1960s to the miniature self-portrait series “Venus Pareve” in the '80s. What makes the later so intriguing is Wilke's use of chocolate and plaster as media, exploring notions of consumption, beauty, and her own feminine form.
XVALA, “Banana Split: A Memento for Celebrity Exes” (2012)
Guerrilla artist XVALA is known for taking his inspiration from the scandalous headlines of celebrity tabloids and creating good, old-fashioned, celebrity-mocking art. He literally sifted through pop star Justin Bieber's trash can for his leftovers to make “Banana Split: A Memento for Celebrity Exes,” a chocolate sculpture of a banana inside a hot dog bun, as an homage to what he considers the exploitation of personal relationships — in this case the doomed romance of Bieber and actress Selena Gomez.