Pasta: Italian Culture on a Plate, a visually rich and evocative exhibition which demonstrates the impact of one of the world’s most popular foods on Italian art and culture, will take place at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square, London N1, from Wednesday 26 June to Sunday 15 September 2002. The core of the exhibition will be a selection of fascinating material from the extensive archive of advertising and packaging owned by Barilla of Parma, Italy’s leading pasta manufacturer.
This is the first time that such a loan has been made. The selection is a "visually delicious anthology" of trade catalogues, packaging graphics, typography, menu cards, period photographs, pasta-making tools and other ephemera which in their own way evoke Italian culture as powerfully as a Fellini film or a Piaggio scooter.
On entering the exhibition the visitor will see an enormous and brightly-coloured hand-painted map of Italy and an historical account of the origins of this most successful noodle. It is believed that pasta was first brought to Europe from China by Marco Polo and there is also speculation that Chinese servants of Florentine households in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries may have introduced the oriental noodle to Italy. The Italian word spaghetti is the diminutive of spago or string; Indians have a similar dish called sevika and Arabs have rishta, both words meaning thread. There are innumerable different types of pasta from agnolotti to ziti and the exhibition will show either by drawings or examples of the pasta itself every single known type.
Cultural attitudes to pasta will be examined, contrasting for example the attitude of the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti with that of Elizabeth David. Marinetti was hostile to pasta because he believed it made his countrymen lethargic, although the exhibition features a photograph of Marinetti eating a plate of spaghetti in 1930 at a Milan restaurant as well as illustrations and extracts from his Cucina Futuris. Elizabeth David was passionate about pasta as it offered an introduction to Mediterranean values craved by the English after the deprivations of the War. There will be copies of her books Mediterranean Food and Italian Food with their evocative illustrations by John Minton and Renato Guttuso on view, together with others by such authors as Patience Gray which helped to introduce the English and Americans to pasta.
To really whet the appetite place settings from several well-known Italian restaurants with their signature pasta dishes and annotated menus will be displayed. Pasta’s future as well as its past will be featured with the product designer Paul Priestman’s design of an entirely new pasta form explained with technical drawings. The final exhibit will be a spectacular installation using pasta.
Pasta: Italian Culture on a Plate will certainly stimulate the palate and offer a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. To complement the exhibition the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art will hold cookery events and tastings, as well as publishing a small book that will include classic pasta recipes. The exhibition is designed by Stephen Bayley, the author and design consultant known for his groundbreaking exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert Museum Boilerhouse and the Design Museum.
Sacla’, the number one Italian pesto sauce producers who have a family history spanning three generations, introduced pesto to the UK ten years ago. The company's Italian credentials together with its influence on all authentic food-related subjects make Sacla’ the ideal supporter of the exhibition.