Chocolart: Exhibit you can eat comes to Edinburgh

Anya Gallaccio's chocolate-painted room installation Stroke is the stuff of Willy Wonka style-fantasies. Picture: AP
Anya Gallaccio's chocolate-painted room installation Stroke is the stuff of Willy Wonka style-fantasies. Picture: AP
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IT SOUNDS like something conjured up inside Willy Wonka’s mysterious factory – a dark room in which the walls are made entirely of chocolate.

But that is what will await visitors to Jupiter Artland, Scotland’s biggest sculpture park, on the outskirts of Edinburgh next month, when its owners unveil the latest additions to their collection.

Paisley-born artist Anya Gallaccio will be coating all four walls in the Goldsworthy Gallery, with around 40 kilos of melted Belgian chocolate.

Visitors will be able to scrape, pick or even lick the chocolate in the installation piece entitled Stroke, which aims to explore issues of gluttony, excess, temptation and decay.

Gallaccio, 50, who is flying in from her current base in the United States to install the work, is expected to take up to four days to prepare the room.

She will paint the chocolate on to giant pieces of cardboard fitted to the four walls with the help of two assistants.

It will remain in place for two months after it is installed in mid-May but its appearance is expected to change dramatically in that time, based on the artist’s previous experiences of staging the work around the world, in locations including Austria, Switzerland, Japan and the US.

Gallaccio, a professor of sculpture at the University of California in San Diego, said the show had triggered hugely different reactions wherever it had been, although the run at Jupiter Artland will be the first time she has created it in her home ­country.

“I first staged the show around 20 years ago in Vienna, where I got the idea from all the cakeshops there and the fact that everybody seemed to be drinking hot chocolate.

“I’ve not told people whether or not to touch it in the past. The response is what makes it really interesting.

“In places like Austria and Japan, people were really keen to press their faces against it and lick it, but in London they only wanted to pick at it.”

Gallaccio, herself a chocolate lover, told The Scotsman that visitors would not be given any instructions before entering the room at Jupiter Artland, which has billed the work as “an extraordinary installation which assaults the senses”, saying the desire to interact with it will be “almost compulsive”.

Gallaccio, who spread 10,000 red roses on the floor of a gallery space at Jupiter Artland for another piece two years ago, added: “To me, the idea of a chocolate room is something that will excite or repulse you.

“The effect definitely isn’t anything fabulous in a Willy Wonka kind of way when it is painted on the walls. We don’t do it very systematically, like you would if you were painting a door.

“The whole process is quite laborious. People are quite excited when we start putting it on the walls but by the end of third day they want to throw up, although it is really good quality chocolate that I use.

“The smell of it is actually more important than the visual thing. It is overwhelming and triggers childhood memories, but the smell does not match what you are looking it. The ­experience is actually quite ­contradictory.”

Jupiter Artland, which was opened by husband and wife Robert and Nicky Wilson, is home to work by leading Scottish and UK-based artists including Antony Gormley, Nathan Coley, Cornelia Parker, Charles Jencks, Anish Kapoor, Andy Goldsworthy and Jim Lambie.

Each year artists are invited to stage exhibitions and installations inside gallery spaces and within the 100-acre gardens.

Another work, created by Glasgow-born Coley and due to be located in the room adjacent to Gallaccio’s chocolate installation, will be a piece of illuminated text reading “You Imagine What You Desire.”

Ms Wilson said: “It’ll be really interesting to see how people respond to Anya’s work. I think it will be quite challenging for people when the chocolate has been there a while and starts to decay and turns ugly or putrid.”