Teddy McDonald makes over menus

Teddy McDonald makes over menus

Menus at the Oltrarno restaurant feature the Italian-themed artworks until September.

Fri 28 Jun 2024 9:40 AM

British contemporary artist Teddy McDonald takes everyday items and transforms them into artworks. The Il Santo Bevitore restaurant on via Santo Spirito features a number of the artist’s Florence- and Italian-themed drawings on their menus until mid-September

Your artworks often seem to take on a life of their own, like the guitars used by Ed Sheeran and the Range Rover that was described as a “roving sculpture”. What’s the significance of your artwork being applied to menus used by diners?

I like the connection between art and everyday life. In a gallery or museum, art commands authority and respect, while also creating a sense of distance between itself and the viewer. When art is placed in the context of everyday life, it becomes accessible to all and speaks a universal language. For me, good food, and especially Italian food, is the heart and soul of life. Therefore, it was easy to accept Il Santo Bevitore’s wish to collaborate. There are several different artworks displayed on the menus, available until mid-September. These works depict landmarks, locations and objects that can be discovered a short walk away from the restaurant or elsewhere around Florence and Italy.

What’s your connection to Florence and the significance of the works being exhibited here?

I made two visits to Florence in January and February 2023, and was immediately struck by a sense of belonging, connection and familiarity with my surroundings. Waking up to the resonating velvety bells of Santo Spirito was both calming and magical, and I was also drawn to the sense of community in the Oltrarno. Now, seeing my artworks inspired by Florence and Italian life exhibited in the country where they were ultimately conceived is a great honour. 

What in particular inspired your Italian series?

When not travelling in Italy, I’m based in the Cotswolds, England. A beautiful and rural yet creative area, David and Victoria Beckham, Elisabeth Murdoch and Turner Prize-winning artist Keith Tyson, and international pop stars Ellie Goulding and Jack Savoretti live nearby. However, I don’t identify as British; I consider myself European. Italian influences have been with me since childhood, when I enjoyed Latin and Roman history in school. Today in my studio, amongst my art books and materials, you will find numerous diecast Ferrari, Fiat and Alfa Romeo cars and Italian memorabilia. I cook Italian food and make my own fresh pasta; I predominately wear Italian fashion; I drive an Italian sports car; and I love Italian art and design. And naturally, I consider myself a Scuderia Ferrari fan! Early in my career, I was discovered by FIAT heir Lapo Elkann, who then purchased his first paintings and flew me to Milan, where he invited me to view his private art collection. Being chosen by a collector who has original works by the world’s most famous contemporary artists, including Warhol and Basquiat, was very humbling and Lapo was very honest; he told me I was not yet a great artist, but he could see I had something. I am forever grateful to Lapo for his patronage, and I value his friendship. In general, my Italian artworks are inspired by my personal experiences and observations of everyday life in Italy. I have travelled to many countries, but Italy is always special. Using the trains, it’s easy to travel around and while there are differences between the north and south of the country, the one common thread I love about Italian people is their sense of family, community, friendship and positive passion for life. Like Americans, Italians are also respectful of other people’s success and achievements. There is no jealousy; it’s a very healthy mindset. As a collection of works, The Italians is a sign of gratitude and an acknowledgement of my love for Italy and Italian life.

The BBC noted you achieved “The highest art on earth” when your custom-painted headgear reached the summit of Mount Everest. What are your other ambitions for your work?

Having ambition is what keeps me alive, and achieving my ambitions is what feeds my hunger. I greatly appreciate my unique collaborations with Ed Sheeran, members of the British royal family and seeing my work at the summit of Mount Everest. I am also aware of the significance of Ferrari S.p.A taking ownership of a painting for many years. However, my current ambition is to achieve more collaborations with respected Italian brands and have my work enter art museums in the US and Europe. 

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