How does art taste? How does it feel to eat it, touch it, sit on it? Find out at AMP gallery as it becomes an artist-led cafe

How does art taste? How does it feel to eat it, touch it, sit on it? AMP gallery have turned into an artist-run-cafe to investigate this. 12 artists will deliver holistic edible experiences, designing everything from furniture to butter.


Bea Bonafini, St. Barbara (2019), glazed ceramic. Photo Credit: Tania Dolvers

From 17 May – 30 June 2019, AMP Gallery, in Peckham, will be transformed into an art cafe by twelve international artists. Commissioned by Open Space, and co-curated by artist Inês Neto Dos Santos with curator and founding director of Open Space, Huma Kabakci, Tender Touches will have artists conceive all elements of the cafe, designing furniture and tablewares, and cooking menus of their choice.

The participant artists will be: Bea Bonafini (Italy), Clementine Keith Roach (UK), Lindsey Mendick (UK), Goia Mujalli (Brazil), Cecilia Charlton (USA), Marco Palmieri (Italy), Paloma Proudfoot (UK), Sofia Stevi (Greece), Magda Skupinska (Poland), Pixy Liao (China), Inês Neto dos Santos (Portugal) and Coco Crampton (UK).

What is your favorite art flavour? You will soon have the chance to discover it. Picture this: you enter into an art gallery and, instead of contemplating paintings or moving around sculptures, you sit down at a dining table, stencilled with biomorphic designs made by Coco Crampton, and embellished further by Clementine Keith-Roach’s sculptural candleholders, cast with the composite textures of various body parts. Rather than investing on yet another canvas, you order a vanilla custard and charcoal ice-cream, or a lavender & sage gin tonic, all previous inventions by Inês Neto Dos Santos.


Magda Skupinska, Little Sunset II (2018). Banana flour and turmeric on canvas. Courtesy of Open Space, Magda Skupinska and Maximillian William. Photo Credit: Tania Dolvers

While waiting, Magda Skupinska’s organic paintings, made out of corn, clay and exotic fruits, catch your eyes, helped by their background, the bespoke wallpaper created by Marco Palmieri. In the meantime, waitresses/waiters, garbed with hand embroidered aprons designed by Cecilia Charlton and Goia Mujalli, approach you.


The origin of Fruit (2019) by Goia Mujalli and Cecilia Charlton, cotton and silk garments with cotton wool and silk hand-embroidery, for Tender Touches, co-curated by Huma Kabakc Inês Neto dos Santos, organised by Open Space.

On top of their mirrored trays, printed with photographs by Pixy Liao, they carry Neto dos Santo’s edible goods, served inside the hand sculpted ceramic crockery produced by Bea Bonafini. To eat, if not encouraged to have a go with your hands, you can use the ceramic cutlery designed by Lindsey Mendick. In case you chose the hand option, you might need one Sofia Stevi’s napkins.


Pixy Lao, Pinch  (2015)

Skupinka surprises us with her unorthodox use of corn or turmeric, used to ‘paint,’ or ‘sculpt’ into her canvas. Bonafini with the biomorphic, fragmented, convoluted and seemingly impractical ceramic dishes (’cause you’ve never used a dish for food art before!). Lao’s tongue-in-cheek photos create an amusingly bewildering situation. Mujalli’s and Charlton’s juxtaposition of different materials, textures and patterns form an incredible visual companion to Neto dos Santos’ combination of tender mozzarella with crunchy radicchio.


Bea Bonafini, Noli Me Tangere (2019), glazed ceramics. Food by Inês Neto dos Santos. Courtesy of Open Space and the artists

Neto dos Santos has been thinking about this project for a long time. Thanks to the support and creative energy of Kabakci, it is finally been realised. Drawing on the food-based practice of the former, who transforms edible matter into her artistic medium, the exhibition expands to create a shared reality between the public and their daily needs. The food menu will be designed and cooked by Neto dos Santos. It will be inspired by her constant commitment to sustainability, using practices such as preservation and fermentation which extensively reduce the use of energy.


Marco Palmieri, Wallpaper (2015)

The inspiration came from a variety of sources, like the Breakfast Pavilion by Lorenzo Mason (M–L–XL) and Luca Lo Pinto at the 2017 Art Biennale in Venice, or the 1966 production of Hon by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Moderna Museet. As the co-curators said:

“While forming the theme for Tender Touches, we were inspired by many historical references including the artist-run restaurant, FOOD, initiated by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Gooden in New York in 1971 and Gertrude Stein’s 1914 book Tender Buttons, which explores multi-sensory experiences in the everyday. Food as a medium of artistic expression and social commentary has a long history, and is experiencing something of a revival with a number of recent exhibitions and major institutional shows. Through our collaboration, we wanted to challenge the formal approach to exhibition-making through the interactive nature of visitors eating together, but also question the dynamics of the exhibition space through the presentation of functional art objects.”

Magda Skupinska, Dusk (2019). Chilli, yellow and blue corn on canvas. Image courtesy the artist _ Maximillian William Gallery

Especially FOOD, I believe, must have been an inspirational model to look up to. FOOD, in fact, has been described as ‘restaurant-slash-art installation’ in the article aptly titled Food Matters | When Eating and Art Became One by Howie Khan. Probably the ‘slash’ thing actually strips off the possible impartiality and anti-hierarchy between food and art. I hope for Tender Touches to be understood as an art restaurant, where terms and categories will not only blur, but stop mattering altogether.

The temporary artistic and foodie hub will blur the lines between the gallery, the studio and the dining room.  It will host a series of talks, dinners, readings and performances, all commissioned anew for this occasion. Tender Touches will also bring together many cultural spheres which are normally separated. The mainly hidden, mainly feminine kitchen domain will be exposed into a public space. “High,” gallery art, and “low,” cafe/edible art will intertwine, giving way to a freer dimension.

The exhibition aims to bring people together through food, using it as a catalyst for conversation and knowledge. This immersive, multi-sensory space will present functional objects as artworks, in a traditional art gallery turned non-traditional cafe. The site-responsive environment will dissolve barriers between audiences and artworks, between banal routines and the realization of the work that lies behind them.

What am I eating…. art? Can you ingurgitate artwork? I though I had to hand it on my wall…Is this brûlée egg–one of dos Santos previous creations– an egg, or a piece of art? Shall I eat it? Sorry, can I touch this? What, this fork has been designed by you? Oh, and the apron as well?

Bea Bonafini, Missing Soul (2019), glazed ceramic. Food by Inês Neto dos Santos. Courtesy of Open Space and the artists

All these questions, and most probably some more skeptical and unpromising ones, will surely be in the minds of many. But I guess this is the ultimate goal. To get you thinking. To not wipe away your beliefs, necessarily. But to at least have a go at enjoying food practices, everyday rituals, utensils design, in a different way. To leave your prejudices behind, eventually.

Coming to the UK I realised how many people actually do not leave meals as an important part of the day. Many of my friends skip their breakfast to get those 20 minutes more of sleep. Many more have a quick, deliveroo dinner on the sofa, watching Netflix alone. How about ‘spaghetti in bed’? I didn’t even know that was a thing… To me, any repast is fundamental, it is a moment to relax, and, more than anything, to share and create connections, either with people or with the environment. Hopefully Tender Touches will have its audience focus on what they usually neglect. From a napkin holder, to a watermelon skin, all elements leading to fulfilling a primary nutritional need will be transformed into an immersive, unforgettable experience.

Open Space has always been involved in surprising the art public with exhibitions and events into unorthodox spaces. With this new project, not only will it challenge the rules of traditional exhibition spaces, but it will also push people’s perception of what art can be. Tender Touches will bring together a variety of art procedures, many of which are recurrently considered as marginal or irrelevant, even. By doing so, it will encourage people to rethink both their expectations of where to find art, and what to call so. Tender Touches is just the inaugural edition of one of Open Space’s newly launched investments. It forms part of the organization’s new, annually recurring exhibition series, Edible Goods, that will explore food as a medium in contemporary art.

Tender Touches 17 May – 30 June 2019 AMP Gallery, 1 Acorn Parade, London SE15 2TZ & Open Space
A series of supper clubs, talks and performances will be held throughout the exhibition. Details to be announced

About Irene Machetti

Whenever there is an exhibition opening, expect to find me there, with a glass of wine in one hand, and my phone on the other, to take pictures and record my emotions. The rest of my life is spent studying art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and, especially, baking cakes and lasagne for my loved ones.