Piece of Cake:
Joana Vasconcelos at Waddesdon

Wedding Cake – a 12-metre-high sculptural pavilion in the form of a three-tiered wedding cake, clad entirely in ceramic tiles – is a major new work by celebrated Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos at Waddesdon.

Part sculpture, part architectural garden folly, Wedding Cake is an extraordinary, enormous, fully immersive sculpture which combines pâtisserie and architecture. Gleaming and icing-like outside and in, it offers an intricate and richly sensory experience – glazed in pale pinks, greens and blues. Wedding Cake is Vasconcelos’ most ambitious commission to date, described by the artist as “a temple to love” that celebrates festivity and marriage.

Inspired by the exuberance of Baroque buildings and highly decorative ceramic traditions of Lisbon – where Vasconcelos lives and works. Wedding Cake is emblematic of Vasconcelos’ practice. She is deeply influenced by the artistic traditions of her home country, and the way in which she combines her materials reflects international influences on Portuguese culture over centuries – born from a history of exploring and seafaring, from Chinese and Japanese ceramics to Brazilian carnival, incorporating colour and light. Her work is often playful, manipulating scale to dramatic effect and using familiar daily objects in surprising, charming and inventive ways. On a deeper level, her work explores notions of domesticity, femininity, empowerment and the tension between private and public realms.

Vasconcelos’ work often challenges the assumptions of traditional hierarchies and her practice champions traditional, hand-made objects and techniques. At Waddesdon, this combination of materials and the exploration of scale and technique is a perfect fit. The house is famous for its ceramics, particularly Sèvres and Meissen porcelain. The sumptuous decoration of the Wedding Cake also speaks to the architecture of the house, itself covered in ornament and designed to complement the collections inside it and the carefully laid out garden and landscape.

According to Joana Vasconcelos, “An enormous project such as this one could only happen with the vision and encouragement provided by a generous and extraordinary patron. Many artists have the ‘impossible project’ and this is mine.

Above all, I always thought of it as a temple to love.”


Julien Pacaud: of gods and men

Words by Fabrizio Mifsud Soler.

Joana Vasconcelos: Wedding Cake at Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire is open until October 26th 2023.

waddesdon.org.uk/

Images: Waddesdon Image Library/Merriman Photography

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