T Whitney Cox / Courtesy Casa Lever
At Casa Lever in New York City, nearly 20 giant Andy Warhol portraits line the dining room.
Art and food have always had a harmonious relationship — just look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Indeed, Pablo Picasso, Norman Rockwell and Pierre Auguste Renoir all created artworks about breaking bread and, in fact, Picasso and Henri Matisse were both known to paint for their dinners. So it comes as no surprise that a big trend in art today has to do with eating: Fine-dining establishments are morphing into art galleries.
At first, world-class restaurants simply started popping up in museums. In 2005, the Museum of Modern Art debuted The Modern, in which restaurateur Danny Meyer elevated institutionalized museum fare to a Michelin-starred level in a setting overlooking works by Alexander Calder, Auguste Rodin and more in MoMa’s Sculpture Garden. Wolfgang Puck has been dabbling in the museum restaurant arena for years as well, setting up shop in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington; the view from his 20.21 restaurant at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center (now a new bôite called Gather) was the cherry on top (literally — diners had a view of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s iconic sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry).
These days, though, you don’t have to eat at a museum to see excellent art. Restaurants around the world are attracting patrons with their own art collections and rotating exhibitions. In Zurich, Kronenhalle’s original owner, Hulda Zumsteg, and her son, Gustav, spent decades amassing a personal art collection, filling the restaurant with art by German and Swiss painter Paul Klee, Russian Abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky, Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler and others. The furniture is also priceless: The tables in the bar area are by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. On the Strip in Las Vegas, the Bellagio’s Picasso restaurant has originals by the namesake. Even Puck has gotten in on the craze with his steak house Cut, at London’s 45 Park Lane Hotel, where Damien Hirst’s Pslams series is on view.
Similar to gallery owners who champion the work of emerging artists, restaurateurs are doing so too. Mr. Chow is perhaps the modern pioneer: he traded noodles for artwork n the height of the 1980s art craze; now his restaurants have shown works by artists ranging from Andy Warhol to Keith Haring. Meanwhile, the Santa Monica outpost of New York power-lunching hub Michael’s has an upstairs gallery with rotating exhibitions with work by local artists. And the Michelin-starred Number One, at the Balmoral in Edinburgh, displays work by graduates of the Royal College of Art in London.
With restaurants becoming the world’s best galleries, here are eight spots worth the art and food. Grab a glass of wine, a comfortable chair and a delicious excuse to sit and stare at the walls for an hour or two.
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