“Our starting point for this project was to illuminate what we eat and where it comes from, with the aim of cultivating a deeper understanding of the potential and maybe even surprising impacts of food choices,” said Giorgia Lupi, partner at design studio Pentagram. “Ultimately, we want to spark questions. Where does our food come from? And how do our choices affect the planet — now, and in the future?”

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An art installation sent in a pool

This desire to inform through art is the basis for the “Around the World’s Table” installation on display at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) through September 11, 2022. The display by information designer Giorgia Lupi and her team at Pentagram is part of a larger program called “Around the Table: Stories of the Foods We Love.” It is an exploration into all things related to food traditions and customs. 

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Another angle of a sculpture of colorful panels set in a pool of water

Around the World’s Table is specifically focused on the environmental impact of our current food production and consumption practices. To deliver this point, the installation is made up of 100 partially submerged sculptures that represent the major food groups, how that consumption is dispersed globally and the weight of the carbon footprint for each. 

A man sitting beside a pool containing an art installation

Storyteller and data visualist Lupi used a pool to represent the world. Inside, the water-to-sculpture ratio reflects the world’s land currently in use agriculturally. Each of the features in the pool make up the approximately 50% of land used for food production, yet each sculpture also portrays 2019 data on food production and consumption around the globe. A legend is provided alongside the installation to help visitors decipher the layers of information on display. 

An art installation with blue cutouts in front of yellow and red taller cutouts

“We have an opportunity to tell nuanced and complex human stories with data. The parameters we chose to represent in the sculpture allowed us to offer multiple visual narratives for the visitor to interrogate and inquire on their own terms,” said Lupi.

Up-close of the blue cutouts look like silhouettes of people

Jennifer Bernstein, CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President of The New York Botanical Garden added, “Around the World’s Table offers visitors to NYBG a unique opportunity to visually understand how the food choices they make can have far reaching environmental impact. I hope that visitors to our summer exhibition of Around the Table: Stories of the Foods We Love will spend time with this illuminating work of art, and the related exhibition components on view at the garden. We can all contribute to a healthier and more sustainable future through the everyday choices that we make about the food on our tables.”

+ Giorgia Lupi and Pentagram

Images via The New York Botanical Garden