10 chocolate artworks entirely Easter egg-free

Move over Lindt bunnies and hollow eggs. Chocolate can be political, sexy or witty in the hands of a cheeky painter or provocative installation artist.
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Patrick Roger, Chocolate sculpture

For most Australians, Easter is more about chocolate than church. The Christian art tradition that produced Michelangelo’s Pieta and Salvador Dali’s Crucifixion alike is less visible this week than the preponderance of mass-produced chocolate rabbits and colourfully-wrapped eggs.

But the worship of chocolate is developing its own artistic tradition. The decadence and desirability of chocolate makes it a potent metaphor embraced by conceptual artists.

The fluidity and smoothness of liquid chocolate means it can be used for painting or moulding and the danger of melting adds a piquancy in an era of ephemeral art.

From Korea to Brazil, political activists to fashion designers, artists are using chocolate…and enjoying their creations has no calories.

1. Psst…wanna buy some chocolate

Jin Joo Chae, Choco Pie with Marshmellow

A popular confectionery called a Choco Pie is given out in lieu of forbidden cash bonuses to workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

The result is a black market in a kind of chocolate currency which Korean-born artist Jin Joo Chae uses to explore the oppressions and hypocrisies of North Korea in a series known as the Choco Pie works.

In some works, Jin Joo Chae, who now lives in New York, uses melted chocolate to screen print words and images on newspaper, juxtaposing the popular treat with pages of the North Korean Workers’ Newspaper.

In an interactive piece titled Desire Want Need, viewers are encouraged to take a Choco Pie and leave money for what they think it’s worth. The work records the Choco Pie economy on an electronic ticker.

2. Sex and shoes

Gerhard Petzl, C’est Moi

The girls from Sex in the City would love the work of Austrian-born pastry chef Gerhard Petzl, whose chocolate art includes painting with liquid chocolate on naked bodies and carving elegant shoes out of solid chocolate blocks,

Petzl, who studied art and design as well as chocolate-making, is probably best known for a massive Baroque chocolate table which was featured at a Hong Kong shopping mall in 2013. The five metre long table consisted of 2,500 pieces including cutlery and crockery, a still life fruit bowl, a towering candelabra and a white chocolate loaf of sliced bread. Display of the piece was delayed due to a heatwave, an occupational hazard for a chocolate artist.

3. Eat your heart out

Janine Antoni, Gnaw

In her 1992 work Gnaw, performance artist Janine Antoni chewed her way through two 300kg blocks, one made of chocolate, the other of lard. The chewed up bits (which she didn’t actually swallow) were then moulded into chocolate boxes and lipstick tubes displayed in a mock store front.

The work was a comment on attitudes to women, food and fat. 

‘Lard is a stand-in for the female body, a feminine material, since female typically have a higher fat content than males, making the work somewhat cannibalistic,’ she was quoted as saying when the work was exhibited in the US.

4. Death in chocolate

Stephen Shanabrook, On the road to heaven, the highway to hell is one 

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) holds one of the most disturbing chocolate works ever made, a media image of the remnants of an 18-year-old suicide bomber moulded in chocolate. On the road to heaven, the highway to hell is one of several chocolate works by the US conceptual artist Stephen Shanabrook who uses sweets because they are associated with happiness and comfort but applies them to dark subjects. In Waterboarding he applied liquid chocolate tot Christmas figures of choirboys in an imitation of the torture technique. In Evisceration of waited moments he made moulds in chocolate from fatal wounds on anonymous people he found in morgues, then presented the works in ruffled chocolate cases and pretty foil wraps.

 5. Looks familiar, tastes different

Vik Muniz, Action Photo, After Hans Namuth, 

Brazilian-born photographr Vik Muniz  likes to recreate famous images out of unlikely objects. He has fashioned the Mona Lisa from peanut butter and jelly, Elizabeth Taylor from diamonds, Caravaggio’s Narcissus from junk, iconic news images from wet ink, and his self-portrait from dice. In Action Photo, After Hans Namuth, he used chocolate syrup to recreate a famous photograph of Jackson Pollock painting and then photographed the result. 

6. Chef or artist?

As pastry chef at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio, Daniel Keadle considers himself a chef not an artist. But many disagree when they see his towering spires, feathered birds and elegant ladies with an Art Deco twist.

 7. Lick the walls

Anya Gallaccio, Stroke

Scottish artist Anya Gallaccio’s work Stroke is an entire room made of chocolate, a fantasy brought to life which is also an overwhelming sensory experience. The room, which showed at Edinburgh’s Jupiter Artland in 2014, provided a chocolate canvas which changed over the course of the display, as the chocolate decayed and as visitors were encouraged to stroke or lick the work.

‘For me the piece is more about desire and anticipation than really being in the room and I think so much of the way we live our lives is more about some idea we have in our head or some memory so for me that is really important in the sense that the idea of a chocolate room is one thing and the reality of a chocolate room is really something else,’ Gallaccio said in a video interview.

8. Here’s looking at you

Sid Chidiac, Barack Obama

Australian born and Lebanese raised Sid Chidiac has painted Elvis Presley, Abraham Lincoln, Kofi Annan and Marilyn Monroe – among many other celebrities – all in Barry Callebaut Belgium chocolate. The artist, who also paints more conventional oils, runs the chocolate painting as a kind of signature sideline, frequently donating works for charity. He also does body painting in chocolate and he is a brush for hire for events and occasions.

9. Wearable dessert

Erika Mizuno, rabbit dress

Japanese fashion designer Erika Mizuno created this chocolate dress for Harbour City in Hong Kong. The first form of the dress was a chocolate bunny, designed to invoke the Year of the Rabbit (okay, it’s a bunny, but not an Easter bunny). Model Charlene Choi wore this version for a promotional event for the retailing outlet.

10. The ultimate shop window

Patrick Roger shop window display

Parisian chocolatier Patrick Roger is known for creating massive chocolate sculptures which grace the front window of his shops. He has made life size astronauts, fantastic monsters, trains, bears, beehives and even a row of overweight ballet dancers seen from behind (pictured at top), perhaps a warning as to what happens if you eat too much chocolate.

scottish artist anya gallaccio assaults the senses of visitors to edinburgh’s jupiter artland with ‘stroke’, an entire room covered in thick dark chocolate. the immersive and interactive installation is lightly scented, beckoning gallery visitors to interact with the walls, by picking, licking or stroking the edible surfaces. activated by the audience, the exhibit is just as much about the edible space itself as the desire and anticipation of entering the room, suggesting gallaccio’s recurrent themes of lust and feminism.



the thick coating of melted materials, and the interplay with the observer, results in a natural processes of transformation and decay. gallaccio has described that she sees her works, ‘as being a performance and collaboration. there is unpredictability in the materials and collaborations I get involved in. making a piece of work becomes about chance – not just imposing will on something, but acknowledging its inherent qualities.’ 

Deborah Stone
About the Author
Deborah Stone is a Melbourne journalist and communications professional. She is a former Editor of ArtsHub and a former Fairfax feature writer.