Last week, the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones went a smidgen ballistic about the notion that Spanish chef Ferran AdriÃ – founder of Barcelona’s El Bulli and frequently ranked as the globe’s top chef – was being put forward among Documenta’s artists. In his delightfully apoplectic post Food can be artistic – but it can never be art, Jones wrote:
They are not true artists because even the most modern food cannot disgust people beyond a certain point, or El Bulli would have no customers…. In reality, even a genius among chefs is obliged to please the customer (and cook to order), which means no chef can claim the freedom of mind that artists won in the Renaissance. Caravaggio could paint fruit that looked good enough to eat but he also painted tortures to turn your stomach; that’s art. Until people go to a restaurant to think about death, cooking won’t be art.
Well, Mr. Jones will be delighted to hear that AdriÃ has apparently bailed on Documenta. [UPDATE: Documenta’s debating this. See Comment #3 below] According to the issue of Berlin-based Monopol that landed in subscriber mailboxes today, AdriÃ is staying put in Barcelona during Documenta. Here’s a rough translation of the Monopol item:
Only at El Bulli can he provide his gastronomic experience, explains the Documenta 12 team, but one can nevertheless travel there…. Too bad El Bulli regrets to say that the master is not capable of receiving Documenta customers, because all reservations through the end of 2007 have been booked.
I see this as yet another omen that things have gone a little haywire in Kassel. After all, Ferran AdriÃ was one of the two artists named first by Roger M. Buergel. (The other was Artur Zmijewski. Get it: “Artists from A to Z”?) Granted, things go wrong all the time with big shows. Still nailing down Ferran AdriÃ ‘s participation should have been handled ages ago.
But I’m also struck with the ferocity with which the German press has gone after Buergel. The sharks smell blood and they’re circling in the water. I’m sure the Documenta team feels unjustly assailed, but their bizarre media-handling tactics have hardly earned them any favor; one reporter told me he was assailed by the press team for trying to find out which artists were selected. But that’s a journalist’s job, despite Buergel’s decision to only release the list at the opening.
As amusing as this competition may be to observe, I feel bad for the artists. So here’s free advice for future directors trying the same no-promotion trick: Give the media even a dish (even a weak dish) on a platter and they’ll usually take it without looking too hard for something else. But bar them from the restaurant and they’ll batter down the door, scour the kitchen and steal away with the staff.