Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij, 2016
Olive oil caviar, asparagus beer, Parmesan foam, the soup fragrance spoon: these are only a handful of examples of the revolutionary creations by the world-renowned and widely celebrated Ferran Adrià of the legendary restaurant El Bulli. The exhibition Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity is a homage to Adrià’s exploration of creativity and how this quest led to his revolutionary cuisine. It is filled with hundreds of colourful drawings, sketches, Plasticine models, collages, large-scale photos, provocative recipes and menus, unique cutlery and unusual cooking utensils, and includes a film of the nearly two thousand dishes prepared by Adrià and his team in their more than twenty years at El Bulli.
Drawing: a form of sampling, searching, thinking and creating
Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity takes you behind the scenes of Adrià’s search for ingredients and new ways to prepare and serve food. It is also a testament to how much thought he has always put into the history of cooking and taste. That deliberation is evident from the very beginning in his drawings. During the 20-plus years in which he worked with his team to develop his hugely innovative, investigatory cuisine, he always had a pencil and a notebook at the ready. Instead of writing out recipes, however, Adrià began every new dish by making a drawing. That formed the critical link between imagination, contemplation, conception and cooking. His method could be compared to the creative process of a scientist, designer or artist: exploratory, tireless, innovative and always surprising. ‘Drawing is the basis of my creative process,’ Adrià has said. ‘I use these drawings to help me visualise what the final result will look like. Drawing often helps trigger a work in progress. My inspiration is not based on the art world. Instead I am inspired by the products I use in the kitchen during my search for new techniques.’
Hall of mirrors with floating objects
The epicentre of the exhibition is a specially designed hall of mirrors, with an infinite landscape of over one hundred floating, delectable objects: glass tumblers in every possible shape, metal ‘amuse’ dishes, spoons for smelling, plates of paper, slate and glass, Plasticine models indicating the size of a dish and cuttings showing how food should be cut. This gives visitors a sense of the immense proliferation of designs and tremendous amount of work that precedes every dish, some of which are no larger than a bite. The hall of mirrors is also evidence of how the artistic effect in Adrià’s work invariably derives from his careful trial and error and unstoppable flow of invention. After all, each new dish involves extensive experimentation with new cutlery, dishware, kitchen appliances and so forth to achieve the greatest possible flavour sensation.
Dishes as edible still lifes
Along with the hall of mirrors, drawings and objects, the exhibition will show the film 1846, named after the number of dishes Adrià and his team invented and made over the course of twenty years. These launched a culinary revolution, becoming edible still lifes, as it were. The courses could unleash all manner of emotion: surprise, happiness, disgust… Adrià calls El Bulli a form of theatre: a trip to his restaurant should be an unforgettable sense experience.
‘Ferran Adrià’s quest for creativity is incredibly intriguing,’ says Director Valentijn Byvanck. ‘His methods bring together haute cuisine, visual culture and scientific rigour; designing the taste is as important as drawing the diagrams or searching for the key to creativity.’
Lastly, Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity shows images from Adrià’s Bullipedia and sketches from developments at the site of the former El Bulli restaurant, where in addition to an exclusive restaurant, a museum dedicated to creativity and a park are being built.
As part of the current exhibition, Marres Maastricht will also be hosting an extensive series of public events and educational programmes aimed at raising awareness about taste, cooking and creativity through taste labs, cookouts and workshops.
Accompanying the exhibition is the English publication Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity.
The exhibition Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity was originally curated by Brett Littman for The Drawing Center (New York). It has been specially adapted and expanded for the presentation at Marres, House for Contemporary Culture.
Dom Pérignon is the presenting partner of Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity. Additional support was provided by the Institut Ramon Llull, Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and Lavazza.
Marres, House for Contemporary Culture, receives ongoing support from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Province of Limburg and the City of Maastricht.