Need Inspiration for This Highly Unconventional Thanksgiving? Feast Your Eyes on Some of Art History’s Most Surreal Meals

From 'Meat Joy' to 'The Dinner Party,' these unconventional works of food art will inspire a fittingly strange Thanksgiving holiday.

Genesis Belanger, installation view
Genesis Belanger, installation view "Through the Eye of a Needle" at the Aldrich Contemporary.

In 2020, most people won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving like they did in years past. The large family gatherings may be out, and perhaps the traditional meals, too. So, to inspire you to get into the spirit of this surreal holiday year, we rounded up some of the most high-concept food art to so you can host the unconventional Thanksgiving of your dreams.

MOVE THE FURNITURE: 

Holiday gatherings, no matter where they take place, usually require some heavy lifting.

Robert Therrien’s Under the Table (1994). Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

 

Installation view of "The Haas Brothers: Ferngully" at the Bass in Miami Beach. Photo by Zachary Balber courtesy the Bass, Miami Beach.

Installation view of “The Haas Brothers: Ferngully” at the Bass in Miami Beach. Photo by Zachary Balber courtesy the Bass, Miami Beach.

…SET THE TABLE

Take a cue from ceramicist Jen Dwyer and her Alice in Wonderland-esque dainty blue tablescape, or feast your eyes on the mother of all table art, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, and then consider one of Diane Weymar’s hand-stitched linens from her “Tiny Pricks Project.”

 

Jen Dwyer, “Dreamer’s Delight” (2020)

Jen Dwyer, "Dreamer's Delight" at SPRING/BREAK 2020 [installation view]. Courtesy of the artist.

Jen Dwyer, “Dreamer’s Delight” at SPRING/BREAK 2020, installation view. Courtesy of the artist.

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

 

Artist Plate Project (2020)

Limited-edition artwork for the Artist Plate Project 2020. Courtesy of Coalition for the Homeless.

Limited-edition artwork for the Artist Plate Project 2020. Courtesy of Coalition for the Homeless.

 

Diane Weymar, Selections from the “Tiny Pricks Project”

Diana Weymar's "Tiny Pricks Project" exhibition at Lingua Franca in New York. Photo by BFA.

Diana Weymar’s “Tiny Pricks Project” exhibition at Lingua Franca in New York. Photo by BFA.

 

Neri Oxman, Glass 1, Section Studies (2017-18)

Neri Oxman, <i>Glass I, section studies</i> (2017–2018). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Neri Oxman, Glass I, section studies (2017–2018). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

 

Bruno Munari, Fork (1958-1964)

"Bruno

Cornelia Parker, Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988–89)

Cornelia Parker, <i>Thirty Pieces of Silver</i> ( 1988-9). Courtesy of Tate.

Cornelia Parker, Thirty Pieces of Silver ( 1988-9). Courtesy of Tate.

FIRST COURSE:

Whet your palate with these lighter plates and do as Alison Knowles suggests and Make a Salad, or if you’re trying to save room for the main event, keep it simple with some crudités à la Vertumnus.

 

Darren Bader, no title, no date

Darren Bader, no title, not dated. Comprised of fruits and vegetables. Image courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, NY.

Darren Bader, no title, not dated. Comprised of fruits and vegetables. Image courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, NY.

Alison Knowles, Make A Salad (1962) 

"Alison

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus (c. 1590–91)

Arcimboldo's Vertumnus, (c. 1590–1591). Courtesy of Wikiart.

Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus, (c. 1590–1591). Courtesy of Wikiart.

 

MAIN EVENT: 

Think beyond the turkey with inspiration from these meaty works of art.

 

Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy (1964)

Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy (1964). Photo courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy (1964). Photo courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

 

Lucy Sparrow, Sparrow Mart (2018)

Lucy Sparrow, Sparrow Mart (2018), pork chops. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lucy Sparrow, Sparrow Mart (2018), pork chops. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 

Julie Curtiss, Food for Thought (2019)

Julie Curtiss, Food for Thought (2019). Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery.

Hannah Rothstein, Man Ray, “Thanksgiving Special” (2015)

Hannah Rothstein, Man Ray, "Thanksgiving Special." Photo: Hannah Rothstein.

Hannah Rothstein, Man Ray, “Thanksgiving Special.”
Photo: Hannah Rothstein.

 

Installation view, Jennifer Rubell "ICONS" at the Brooklyn Museum (2010). Photo: Kevin Tachman.

Installation view, Jennifer Rubell “ICONS” at the Brooklyn Museum (2010). Photo: Kevin Tachman.

 

DON’T FORGET THE SIDES!

While all eyes are on the bird, don’t forget the supporting cast. And from Michael Rakowitz’s Enemy Kitchen to Urs Fischer’s Bread House, artists have a rich history of using real foodstuffs in their work.

 

Michael Rakowitz, Enemy Kitchen (2003-ongoing)

Activation of Michael Rakowitz’s "Enemy Kitchen (2012–ongoing), on the MCA’s plaza, October 01, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Activation of Michael Rakowitz’s Enemy Kitchen (2012–ongoing), with the artist at left, on the MCA’s plaza, October 1, 2017. Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

 

Rafael Pérez Evans, Grounding (2020)

Rafael Pérez Evans, Grounding (2020) at Goldsmiths College, London. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Rafael Pérez Evans, Grounding (2020) at Goldsmiths College, London. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 

Claes Oldenburg, Baked Potato (1967)

Claes Oldenburg, Baked Potato (1967). © Claes Oldenburg, courtesy of LACMA.

 

Urs Fischer, Untitled (Bread House)

Urs Fischer, <i>Untitled (Bread House)</i> (2004-2005). Photo by Stefan Altenburger, courtesy of the artist.

Urs Fischer, Untitled (Bread House) (2004-2005). Photo by Stefan Altenburger, courtesy of the artist.

 

Chloe Wise, Bread Bag

One of Chloe Wise’s “Bread Bags” courtesy of the artist.

 

DESSERT:

Last but not least, treat yourself to the sugary sweets—and remember to always do as Felix Gonzales Torres did, and share the wealth. Happy Thanksgiving!

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, <i> Paradise Pie IV (Red)</i>. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen,
Paradise Pie IV (Red)
. Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

 

Janine Antoni, Gnaw (1992)

Janine Antoni, Gnaw [detail] (1992). Courtesy of LACMA.

Alison Kuo, The New Joy of Gellies (2019)

Alison Kuo, “The New Joys of Gellies” performance (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

 

Jennifer Rubell, “Consent” (2018)

"Jennifer Rubell: Consent" at Meredith Rosen Gallery. Photo courtesy of Sarah Cascone.

“Jennifer Rubell: Consent” at Meredith Rosen Gallery. Photo courtesy of Sarah Cascone.

 

Will Cotton, Against Nature (2012)

Will Cotton, Against Nature (2012). Courtesy of the artist.

 

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in LA) (1991). Courtesy Instagram.


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