Tasting Gormley’s Retrospective: the Royal Academy exhibition inspires Rosewood London’s new afternoon tea

Celebrating Antony Gormley’s retrospective at the Royal Academy, luxury hotel Rosewood London have developed a new Art Afternoon Tea. We visit the exhibition and try the tea to find out how Gormley’s artworks have been transformed.

With a career spanning 45 years, Antony Gormley is easily one of the UK’s most celebrated sculptors. Perhaps best known for his 200-tonne Angel of the North, or for his project involving over 2000 members of the public (for Trafalgar Square’s The Fourth Plinth), Gormley’s sculptures are recognisable across the world: often a forlorn, singular metal human figure, they can be found everywhere from Greek islands and the British coastline to the Italian countryside and New York rooftops.

Following the likes of Anselm Kiefer and Ai Wei Wei, this autumn Gormley has become the latest artist to take over the Royal Academy’s Main Galleries with an exciting new retrospective. Exploring life, space, time, and our own bodies, the new exhibition turns 13 of the stately rooms into immersive journey through art. Visitors travel around a series of experimental installations (some brand new, others remade for the RA’s galleries), encounter a collection of Gormley’s earlier works from the 1970s and 80s, and discover a selection of his sketchbooks and drawings, all to get a sense of what drives this acclaimed sculptor.

Antony Gormley, Lost Horizon I, 2008. 24 cast iron bodyforms, each 189 x 53 x 29 cm. Installation view, ‘Antony Gormley’, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21st September to 3rd December 2019. PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, Ukraine © the Artist. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

Visually stunning, the exhibition weaves through artworks made from organic and industrial materials, including works in steel, iron, hand-beaten lead and – in the case of the final installation, Host (2019) – seawater and clay. This is crowd-aweing art, in part defying the laws of physics (Lost Horizon I, 2008) and in one room, asking visitors to be aware of the space around them; visitors walk through Clearing VII (2019), an immersive ‘drawing in space’, where every touch of the artwork’s coiling, flexible metal will send it quivering and chattering.

Antony Gormley, Clearing VII, 2019. Approximately 8 km of 12.7 mm square section 16 swg aluminium tube, dimensions variable. Installation view, ‘Antony Gormley’, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21st September to 3rd December 2019 © the Artist. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

With the RA’s retrospective presented as one of the “most ambitious” exhibitions of Gormley’s work “in the last ten years”, it is understandable that other cultural establishments wish to pay homage to Gormley in their own way. For example, the acclaimed Rosewood London have chosen to celebrate the artist by launching an art afternoon tea inspired by his life’s works in the luxury hotel’s famous Mirror Room .

©Patricia Niven 2019

In collaboration with the Royal Academy, the Rosewood London has created the Antony Gormley Art Afternoon Tea, which incorporates two courses with flavours based on the artist’s life and features pastries styled to look like artworks that are currently being exhibited at Gormley’s retrospective. For the afternoon tea, Rosewood London’s executive pastry chef, Mark Perkins, has created four delicate confections that wouldn’t look amiss in the exhibition itself. Diners start with a selection of freshly made finger sandwiches and scones, before being presented with the second course: an eatable recreation of Gormley’s 1982 work, One Apple.

Found in the second room of the exhibition, One Apple bisects the space as a long line of 53 lead cases, which record the growth of an apple from falling petal to mature fruit. Perkins has expertly adapted the artwork into four unique apple pastries, presented on a marble tray and sprayed with silver to hint at their sculptural inspiration. Starting with an apple compote, diners move through to a praline choux, blackberry cheesecake, and – the largest offering – an apple mousse shaped to look like the fruit.

©Patricia Niven 2019

This is only the beginning of diners’ art-turned-food journey; even more impressive is the afternoon tea’s third and final course. Three delectable cakes are presented on a marble tray, each designed around one of Gormley’s showcased artworks. The first takes inspiration from another of Gormley’s early works, Full Bowl (1977 – 78); Perkins has transformed the sculpture a delicate chocolate black forest gateau, as tribute to Gormley’s German-born mother.

Unlike the original Full Bowl (made in lead), Perkins’ rendition features chocolate sponge, cherry compote, white chocolate and vanilla cream – but diners could be fooled by the dish, which has an almost uncanny likeness to the original artwork. With a dark chocolate casing, the top of the cake has been brushed in blue and finished with the layered pattern, reminiscent of Full Bowl’s ’40 stacked bowls’.

©Patricia Niven 2019

Moving from the room full of Gormley’s early works, visitors will encounter one of the artist’s most monumental installations. Made from intersecting, rectangular steel mesh grids, Matrix II (2014) is suspended above head height, asking questions about space and security. Perkins has used this industrial structure to create a corresponding pastry for the afternoon tea, with latticed chocolate decoration paying homage to the steel grids. The inside of the cake, meanwhile, is influenced by English orchards, featuring flavours of pear, caramel and vanilla.

If this wasn’t enough, Rosewood London provide yet more decadence with a final, art-inspired pastry: a clever incarnation of Gormley’s 1991-93 work Body and Fruit. While the original artwork is displayed in the centre of the RA’s exhibition, weighing several tonnes and hanging centimetres from the ground, at the Rosewood London, Perkins has moulded a ball of light and airy chocolate mousse within a chocolate coating. Also inspired by Gormley’s time in Sri Lanka, the chef has infused the mousse with notes of Ceylon tea, wrapping it around a centre of mandarin jelly, praline cremeux and hazelnut financier.

Antony Gormley, Body and Fruit, 1991/93. Cast iron and air, 233 × 265 × 226 cm (Body), 110.7 × 129.5 × 122.5 cm (Fruit). Installation view, ‘Antony Gormley’, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 21st September to 3rd December 2019 © the Artist. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

While the RA’s exhibition continues past these works to explore more of Gormley’s extraordinary art, it is here that the Rosewood London’s afternoon tea reaches its end. However, with three courses finished and pairings of Mariage Frères tea tried, diners won’t be left wanting. Those interested in visiting the Royal Academy’s retrospective should visit soon, as the exhibition closes on the 3rd of December – but thanks to Perkin’s extraordinary creations, everyone will be able to explore the flavours and fascinating forms of Gormley’s life and artworks well into the new year, with the Antony Gormley Art Afternoon Tea at the Rosewood London.

©Patricia Niven 2019

Antony Gormley, Royal Academy of Arts, 21 September - 3 December 2019
Supported by BNP Paribas, who are offering free access to 17-25s on select dates through its AccessArt25 programme

The Rosewood London's Art Afternoon Tea is available weekdays from 2:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. It is priced from £60 per person.


Feature image: ©Patricia Niven 2019

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