Admiring museum-quality pizza at MoMA.


Extra olives with a light dusting of acetone, please: Gabriel Orozco’s pizza crust, part of Working Tables, 2000-2005. See the piece in context here. (Photo courtesy of MoMA.)

If there is something that absolutely inspires the art nerd in me, it’s the totally whacked out materials used by some artists. Blood. PeaRoeFoam. A stuffed angora goat. Which is why I was quite excited to find a pizza crust in the Gabriel Orozco retrospective when I visited MoMA last week. The above crust, part of the piece Working Tables, resides in the museum’s stately permanent collection. (It is very important crust.) Which got me wondering: what exactly does a museum do with crust? Is it Orozco’s original crust? Or is it replaced regularly with fresh crust? And what about crust munchers like roaches and mice?

For answers to these burning questions, we turned to MoMA’s associate sculpture conservator Roger Griffith, who has worked in the museum’s conservation lab for more than a decade. Griffith, it turns out, has some experience dealing with art objects made of food. Among them, Janine Antoni’s Gnaw , an installation that consists of 600 lbs. each of chocolate and lard that has been gnawed by the artist. (No doubt a joy to maintain). He was also the man in charge of caring for a small block of artist-made cheese fabricated from human breast milk at a temporary MoMA exhibit several years ago. (“My job was to make sure it didn’t mold,” says Griffith. “I would just take it out of the fridge, pat it down, salt it and put it back.”) He was kind enough to give us the lowdown on pizza à la Orozco:

  • The Crust is O.G.: This is Orozco’s original crust which has been with the museum since MoMA acquired it in 2005 from the Marian Goodman Gallery.
  • It’s Part Plastic: Part of the reason this crust (which is at least five years old) still looks good — and hasn’t been attacked by critters — is because it was treated by the museum’s staff upon  arrival. When MoMA acquired Working Tables, the crust was a normal, everyday crust. But once it entered the museum’s conservation lab, it was bathed in acetone (“to remove the fatty acids, the parts that cause degradation,” explains Griffith) and then soaked in a solution of acrylic known as B-72. The acetone dissolves the fat; the acrylic replaces it. To keep it looking natural (acrylic has a tendency to shine), the conservation department spritzed it with an acetone mist to eliminate unnatural sheen. Voilà! Plasticized pizza dough that looks totally real, yet barely ages. (Like some Upper East Side ladies I know…)
  • It’s Stored in Highly Secure Packaging: When the crust isn’t on display, it’s put away in marva-seal, which according to this website, is the same packaging that the U.S. military uses to wrap its MREs (or Meals Ready to Eat). Which strikes me as incredibly handy, because if all hells break loose, we can always drop Orozco’s crust somewhere over Afghanistan — solving all manner of foreign policy woes.

2 comments

  1. SanSuzie

    I’ve got something in common with Roger– I worked on Janine Antoni’s Gnaw made out of lard. I think he got the better deal.