Habitat

Habitat: The Art of the Dinner Party, With New York Art Types Who Use Food to Foster Community

Rock candy pie made by Marianne Vitale and Agathe Snow.

From still life painters venerating heavenly fruits and vegetables to Gordon Matta-Clark doling out earthy provisions at his 1970s-era SoHo restaurant Food, artists have long communed with cooking and cuisine. Other examples abound: Giuseppe Arcimboldo making faces with foodstuffs in the 16th century, the Italian Futurists imagining strange meals involving sandpaper and ultraviolet rays, Rirkrit Tiravanija serving curry in museums, galleries, and restaurants today. With such edibly inclined ingenuity in mind, ARTnews visited several New York artists—and one of the art world’s favorite chefs—to see how food figures into their life and work. 

Marianne Vitale and Agathe Snow.

Marianne Vitale & Agathe Snow

“I was tired of Lucien busting my balls,” Marianne Vitale said of her onetime job at a storied East Village art-world eatery that inspired her to cook in the manner that figures into her work with Agathe Snow. Together this summer at the Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton, the duo will debut a series of projects, “Double Vision,” to feature paintings and drawings (some made with materials like mustard and coffee grounds), as well as cooking demonstrations in their own idiosyncratic style. During ARTnews’s visit to their studio in Long Island City, the duo cooked up a feast of “gold leaf shark tooth agar agar cakes,” oyster pie with fossilized oysters (“to give it that old-world salt-of-the-earth aura”), and rock candy pie. 

Mina Stone.

Mina Stone

A food-inclined fixture in the New York art world, Mina Stone has cooked for the gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and artist Urs Fischer—and will open her first restaurant, Mina’s, at MoMA PS1 in September. She is also the author of Cooking for Artists, a celebrated tome published in 2015 in tribute to work inspired by her Greek heritage, to wit, a simple salad with a secret ingredient—Greek oregano—that she served at her home in Bed-Stuy. “Food in the art community seems to be an ingrained part of the culture, from gallery dinners to studio lunches,” Stone said. “Artists have an innate understanding and appreciation of food.”

Ann Craven.

Ann Craven

During breaks from making lush paintings of such subjects as birds, flowers, and the moon, Ann Craven enjoys daily lunches with her studio assistants at her workspace and home (where she lives with her husband, artist Peter Halley) in Tribeca. “We all share a love of cooking, so it saves time to not go out,” Craven said. “It’s nice to stay here and make something out of nothing.” On a recent afternoon, she and her studio team made pasta with pear, gorgonzola, and radishes. “I see making food in the same manner as I see mixing paint,” Craven said of a process that is inevitably “filled with risks and humble mistakes, and needs no words—just eating!”

Elia Alba.

Elia Alba

Elia Alba started her series of artist dinners—known as the Supper Club—with restaurant convenings and takeout sessions dating back to 2012. Then she switched strategies: “When I wanted to discuss painful and pressing social and political issues,” Alba said, “I felt the best way was to cook the dinners myself.” All the while, the Supper Club has served as a photo project and conversation series with fellow artists of color—including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Coco Fusco, Dread Scott, and Derrick Adams—about matters relating to visual culture and race. In her kitchen in the South Bronx, Alba cooked up some turkey empanadas. “My mom made empanadas all the time,” she said. “It’s a staple and definitely a comfort food for many Latino and Latin American communities.”

Nathan Carter.

Nathan Carter

Known for wall reliefs and sculptures that teem with color, Nathan Carter remembers watching Julian Schnabel’s movie Basquiat as a teenager and fixating on a scene with the late artist in his studio eating spaghetti with a glass of wine. Sitting in the cinema, Carter thought: “Someday I’m going to have a place to make art and have lunch with a friend.” In 2012 he moved into a studio in Sunset Park large enough for a kitchen and a long table—and started throwing dinner parties that take on certain performative qualities. A recent one featured a Mexican menu with homemade guacamole, quesadillas, grilled poblano peppers, and tacos with chicken stewed in ancho chilies. To drink: Tecate beer and tequila—the latter of which could be poured into ceramic tequila cups emblazoned with the names of heavy-metal bands made as giveaway gifts for friends at a past gallery show.

Chloe Seibert and Bryce Grates of Giovanni’s

Giovanni’s

Giovanni’s, a slightly parodic but somehow also entirely sincere series of family-style Italian dinner parties, is hosted by artist Chloe Seibert and curator Bryce Grates. It started in Astoria—“so I could get people to come to my borough,” Seibert said of her home in Queens. But it took on an added sense of purpose as the series expanded via events at locations like the Bushwick gallery Interstate Projects (where Grates works) and the studio of artist Spencer Sweeney. “There are a lot of circles that run adjacent to each other in New York, and throwing dinner parties is a good way to get them to hang out with each other,” Seibert said. On a recent evening at her home, natural wine washed down ribbons of homemade pasta with sautéed mushrooms and truffles.

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