What’s the Ecological Cost of Olafur Eliasson’s Lunch?

The Danish-Icelandic artist has created an environmentally-conscious menu for Tate Modern’s Terrace Bar

Lunch served at the Tate Terrace Bar, 2019. Courtesy: Studio Olafur Eliasson and Tate Eats; photograph: Alcuin Stevenson / Studio Olafur Eliasson

Lunch served at the Tate Terrace Bar, 2019. Courtesy: Studio Olafur Eliasson and Tate Eats; photograph: Alcuin Stevenson / Studio Olafur Eliasson

At the Terrace Bar in London’s Tate Modern, your lunch will emit around the same quantity of CO2e as a two-mile road trip in your average gas-guzzling passenger vehicle. A carrot soup with a zingy preserved lemon crunch costs the earth 257g CO2e, while a serving of earthy cumin-spiced hummus comes in at 128g CO2e; even a humble green salad has an environmental mark (53g CO2e). In the leisurely surroundings of Tate’s newest cafe, your carbon footprint adds up fast – or, at least, you are more aware of it.

The lunch, which the menu points out accounts for 52 percent less CO2e than your average home-cooked meal, is typical fare for Studio Olafur Eliasson, whose kitchen wing designed it to coincide with the Danish-Icelandic artist’s major retrospective, which opens in Tate’s Blavatnik Building on 11 July. Tables and chairs, earthenware crockery and artworks have also been chosen to re-create the Eliasson communal lunch experience, which is served four times a week to staff members in his Berlin studio. Like Tate’s replica, the meals are healthy, organic and vegetarian; the produce is seasonal and local.

By spilling out of the gallery and onto the plates in the Terrace Bar, Eliasson’s retrospective practises what he preaches in the rooms above. Sociability and conviviality, central themes of his work, are evidently enacted in this restaurant setting. But, given all Eliasson’s talk of raising awareness of global heating, it’s only right to see these issues studied, tasted and, hopefully, ingested.

‘Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life’ runs at Tate Modern, London, UK, until 5 January 2020.

Figgy Guyver is editorial assistant of frieze, based in London, UK. She is co-founder and editor of CUMULUS journal. Follow her on Twitter: @FiggyGuyver.

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