When it comes to the Portuguese artist Joana VasconcelosThis is a spectacular sculptural piece of large scale, this one really packs a punch cake. The famous artist has spent the last five years cooking the nearly 40-foot-tall, three-story forest gate in the English countryside.
Nestled in a grove of trees is a massive, fully immersive whimsical patisserie that shimmers with a glazed frost-like surface and is lined with 25,000 decorative ceramic tiles. Part sculpture, part architectural folly, the delicate work is adorned with pastel-colored cherubs playfully balancing on pedestals, ceramic mermaids and charming dolphins spewing water from their mouths. It’s an absurd slice of unadulterated joy that Vasconcelos revealed to the public this week (on view until October 26).
Wedding cake was commissioned by collector and art philanthropist Lord Jacob Rothschild Manor of Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire, England and stands next to a 19th century dairy built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to entertain guests at his famous house parties. “Vision, imagination and ambition are exemplified in Wedding cake fits perfectly with the passion that drove Baron Ferdinand to build the estate and dairy, where he wanted his many friends to be surprised and delighted at every turn,” Lord Rothschild said in a press release.
The materials used reflect the various international influences on her native Portuguese culture over the centuries, from carnival-inspired motifs to Chinese and Japanese ceramics from widow Lamego factory, which has been operating in Vasconcelos’ native Sintra in Portugal for over 170 years. On a deeper level, this piece – with an official title Wedding cake but lovingly dubbed by Vasconcelos as “the impossible project” – it is the culmination of the artist’s long-standing fascination with love and femininity and the tension between the private and public spheres. “I’ve been dealing with the subject of love for almost 30 years in my career, but this is my biggest challenge yet,” she said in a press release. “Many artists have an ‘impossible project’ and this is mine.”
As for how you enjoy it today, Vasconcelos encourages people to take three different approaches to the installation: “Looking from the outside, enjoying the surroundings from different levels or balconies and climbing up and finally completing the artwork with your presence,” she says. .
While Vasconcelos has mastered many artistic mediums, she is best known for her monumental, large-scale sculptures that elevate everyday objects. Last fall, she took over the space in the Jardin des Tuileries with a vast woven art installation that formed the backdrop to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s show for Dior during Paris Fashion Week. A year ago she brought an a giant octopus— a tangle of velvet, crochet, sequins, beads, silk and LED lights — in the central plaza of the MGM Hotel in Macau. And who can forget her glittering 16ft chandelier made from 14,000 tampons for the Venice Biennale? But considering the kind of legacy Vasconcelos has left behind as an artist, her latest patisserie is simply the cherry on top.
Assistant Digital Editor
Rachel Silva, Assistant Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends and all things haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal and Citywire.