Joana Vasconcelos: Wedding Cake
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 (b 1971) opening at Waddesdon this summer. Almost five years in the making, Wedding Cake was commissioned by the Rothschild Foundation for Waddesdon, prompted by the relationship between visionary collector Lord Rothschild and Vasconcelos.
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, beset with sculptural ornament and complete with the sounds of trickling water and a site-specific lighting scheme. Wedding Cake is Vasconcelos’ most ambitious commission to date, described by the artist as “a temple to love” that celebrates festivity and marriage.
The history of the wedding cake is long and varied, full of symbolism and tradition. From Ancient Rome where bread was broken over the bride’s head to bring good fortune to the couple, to contemporary confections that embody celebration and social status. Vasconcelos’ Wedding Cake is a playful addition to this rich history.
Inspired by the exuberant Baroque buildings and highly decorative ceramic traditions of Lisbon – where Vasconcelos lives and works – the work is also a contemporary response to the great Rothschild traditions of hospitality with echoes of 18th-century garden pavilions.
At Waddesdon, a “must see” cultural landmark rooted in artistic creativity, Wedding Cake will stand in a grove of trees alongside the 19th-century Dairy, built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to entertain and charm guests at his famous house parties, and described by contemporaries as “a treasure house of what is beautiful, curious or ancient”. It reminds us of the long European history of placing fanciful buildings in gardens and landscapes, and forms part of a growing collection of significant contemporary and historic sculpture, brought together by Lord Rothschild. Today, the Dairy is still a much sought-after entertaining space, and the presence of the Wedding Cake, a symbol of love and happiness, is a perfect complement.
Recipe for Wedding Cake
• 1 creative artist
• 1 visionary patron
• 2 international teams
• Pinch of experts
• 3,500 wrought iron parts
• 21,815kg iron sheet
• Circa 25,150 Viúva Lamego ceramic tiles (99 different types) and 1,238 Viúva Lamego ceramic pieces (52 different types). Ceramic tile area: 365 m²
• Plethora of ornaments – mermaids, dolphins, candles, globes etc
• Indoor and outdoor lights – 350 glass flames receiving optical fiber (circa 3.000 meters)
• 592 light points
• Rivers of glaze
• Sprinklings of water
• Hope, belief and effort
Blend the circa 50 tons with generous amounts of creativity and patience. Bind into different panels; raise tier by tier to height of 12 meters. Assemble at Waddesdon. Serve with love.
Joana Vasconcelos and Lord Jacob Rothschild at Waddesdon, November 2022 ©Paul Quezada-Neima