From the cover of Chanterelle's first menu by Marisol in 1979, to its last by Chuck Close, which was completed after the restaurant was forced to close last July, the cult-favorite SoHo restaurant gathered more than 30 years of artwork by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bill Katz (the collection's curator), Allen Ginsberg, Cy Twombly, Mathew Barney, Marcel Marceau, and Kara Walker.
"The idea was to put art in people's hands, in an unpretentious accessible way, for the earthiness and pleasure of holding something in your hand" said Chanterelle co-owner and doyenne Karen Waltuck about an exhibition of the menus running through Tuesday night at denim repair and antiques boutique Kill Devil Hill, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
On the exhibition's unlikely location Waltuck said that when approached by Kill Devil Hill's "young, industrious renaissance-type" proprietors about doing the exhibition, she immediately loved the idea. The eclectic neighborhood, Waltuck said, with its ramshackle warehouses and burgeoning art community, recalled SoHo and Chanterelle's early days when she and her co-owner David's artist friends gathered to eat in their restaurant.
And while Chanterelle's menus compose an impressive retrospective of the past three decades of modern art, Waltuck is quick to point out that the oeuvre grew organically. "It was our lives. It wasn't contrived," she said. "As time passed it all accumulated and grew richer. We were doing something we were passionate about and so were the artists. There was a shared pleasure among us all about what makes life rich and enjoyable."
Click through the photo gallery above for Karen Waltuck's memories of these menus.
"The Menus of Chanterelle" is at Kill Devil Hill, 170 Franklin St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn, (347) 534-3088, until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Select menus are also available for purchase at chanterellenyc.com.
Marisol's menu. "The menus, like the food and like life," said Waltuck, "changed all the time because things change all the time."
Jennifer Bartlett's menu. "David (chef) brought in all different kinds of fish for Jennifer to sketch," Waltuck said. "Then, afterward, she sat down and had a feast of all the fish.â
Francesco Clemente's menu. "Susan Rothenberg made a spook for Halloween," Waltuck said, "and Francesco made this image of a man casting off the chains of winter for summer."
Jenny Holzer's menu. âClients would stand in front of the Jenny Holzer piece and inevitably read aloud one of the truisms," Waltuck said. "It was always very telling which one they chose.â
John Dugdale's menu. "John was on the staff at Chanterelle and was a wonderful photographer," Waltuck said. "We dreamed he would get a picture up in the MOMA by the time he was 40 years old. And then he did. Now heâs blind and still the same wonderful person."
John Cage's menu. "John was wild about mushrooms. He especially liked matsutakes," Waltuck said. "His menu makes me think of how at that time you couldnât buy anything other than white button mushrooms in grocery stores, but we had this crazy couple who would show up from New Jersey in their Woody with the whole trunk filled with all different kinds of mushrooms.â