Thursday, June 24, 2010
The Story of the Tongue Plates
Unusual objects d'art have always interested me--especially if you can get them for nothing--and, after sorting through the mountains of curiosities my mother dragged home from garage sales during her lifetime, I realized I had come by this tendency honorably. Thus, it was, I scrounged the Tongue Plates.
I was at a year-out press event for Expo 2000 in Hannover and at the luncheon we were served our meal on these curious plates designed by a European artist with whom I was not familiar. My friend Martin Roth was in charge of the food pavilion, among other things, and he had hired this Spanish fellow to design the plates. "Please," he announced to the crowd at the event, "feel free to take these plates home with you."
The teal green Tongue Plate, designed by artist Antoni Miralda.
Almost no one did. The plates were dominated by a portrait of the artist's tongue, surrounded by scribblings in English and German about food. A map of Hannover was superimposed across the taste buds. Quelle strange!
So, as the crowd filed out, I popped ten of them (I know, I know), still covered with salad dressing and steak, into my trusty nylon carry-on, wrapped my windbreaker around them and stashed the bag in a locker so I wouldn't have to lug the clanking china around the huge Expo site for rest of the day. I had five pink Tongue Plates and five green. I had no idea what the meaning of the plates was supposed to be, but who understands Europeans anyway? I thought they were very funny and, in an odd sort of way, quite lovely. The writing was all in a silvery gilt and the porcelain was really good.
Poking around in my cupboard today, I found my stack of eight plates. I had only eight of them left because on the airplane back to the U.S. my boss expressed an interest in my collection and I gave him one pink and one green. I can't remember if this helped me at work or not, but I think not.
Today, I decided the plates needed to be displayed, if for nothing other than their astonishing conversation value. I'm pretty sure nobody else on my block has one--not to mention a collection of eight! And their colors suit me. So, I bought some of those plate hangers and installed a couple Tongue Plates in my kitchen, which is the only really sensible place to display a tongue.
One of the Tongue Plates, now up in my kitchen.
Looking up news of the artist, I've discovered he is Antoni Miralda and no less than the Museum of Modern Art in New York has several of his works in their collection.
Artist Antoni Miralda with some of his plates, a photo I'm using under Fair Use media laws I hope.
Miralda is a Pop artist known for culinary themes. He began the series of "City Plates" in 1997 for the Istanbul Biennial and carried it into Hannover with the plates I scrounged titled "Hannover Tongue." I looked them up on ebay and found Miralda far too hip for American ebayers--not a thing of his was up for auction, though I didn't check the European sites. The Hannover plates are among his better-looking designs: one plate he made for a Brazil expo had a picture of the Brazilian flag on it with some dog poo in the center in place of the Brazilian stars. Guess I wouldn't have displayed that one in the kitchen. Perhaps in another room with a designated use.
Anyway, I realize now I have a set of very limited edition tongues. And they are in perfect condition in spite of their trip home in my nylon and canvas satchel.
I wonder if MOMA would like them on loan? I still have six of them lying around waiting for just the right venue to lap them up.