Exhibiting Excess: Food through Art and History

A peacock, swan and other birds on dishes on a table.

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Exploring two landmark exhibitions.

This is an online event hosted on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

Last year the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge staged the brilliant Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe (1500-1800), a multi-sensory exhibition showcasing multiple treasures and four spectacular historical reconstructions with food at their centre, including a Jacobean sugar banquet, a European feasting table and a Georgian confectioner’s workshop.

This year the Louvre-Lens is presenting The Tables of Power: A History of Prestigious Meals, spanning 5,000 years of the culinary arts. Archaeological objects, paintings, sculptures, tableware, metalwork and fabulous objets d’art recount the history of the meal and rich exchanges between civilisations.

Meet the lead curators for both exhibitions as they talk to consultant food historian Ivan Day about the journeys they took to bring these incredible food exhibitions to life.

Dr Victoria Avery has been Keeper of the Applied Arts Department at the Fitzwilliam Museum since 2010, prior to which she was Associate Professor in the History of Art Department, University of Warwick. Vicky has researched, lectured, and published widely on all aspects of the applied arts, especially on European sculpture, most recently editing a monograph on Michelangelo: Sculptor in Bronze. She has also co-curated several ambitious, interdisciplinary, research-led collaborative exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam, most recently Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe (1500-1800), which was described as “remarkable and imaginative” by The Spectator, “highly entertaining” by the Telegraph, and as “a delight: erudite and joyful, sparking endless reflection” by the TLS.

Ivan Day is an independent food historian who has more than 40 years' experience of accurately recreating period food using original historic equipment and methods. He is particularly interested in the evolution of table display and his work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Britain, Europe, Canada and the US, including the Rothschild collection, the Bowes Museum, the Metropolitan, The Getty Research Institute and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Ivan has worked with many curators of decorative arts in the interpretation of material culture linked to gastronomy. In 2012, he was the guest curator with Eike Schmidt of Supper with Shakespeare at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. In 2019 he worked with the Cambridge historians Victoria Avery and Melissa Calaresu on the groundbreaking exhibition Feast and Fast at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Helène Bouillon is a Doctor of Egyptology, specialising in relations between Egypt and the Near East in antiquity. She has been heading the Louvre-Lens museum's exhibitions department since December 2018 as Heritage Curator. She is also a member of the “Pharaonic Worlds” team at Sorbonne-University and teaches at the École du Louvre.

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Name: Exhibiting Excess: Food through Art and History
Where: British Library St Pancras
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546