Just beyond the walls of Café NOMA, the newly renovated dining space by Ralph Brennan, in the New Orleans Museum of Art, a rotating exhibition of recent acquisitions highlights the contributions and artistry of cultures and populations too often invisible in major art collections. In the museum, and on the menu, a conscious effort for several years has been underway – elevating the profile of artists that have long contributed to our nation’s richness.
New at NOMA is an ongoing exhibition that began in 2017 as part of the museum’s commitment to making its collections more reflective of the community it serves. The pursuit for inclusion and equitable representation brings powerful works to the public eye and broader recognition to their creators. Supported by the Power (2003) by Lonnie Holley, an African American sculptor and educator, uses discarded wires and electrical materials in a political and spiritual commentary whose impact is expanded by artful shadows. Covered (2008), a textile work by mixed-media artist Radcliffe Bailey, incorporates a vintage family photograph with found fabrics in a modern-day expression of the African American quilting techniques that encoded political and family truths in outwardly abstract designs.
In its recent renovation, Café NOMA, which is operated by the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, gained an exhibition space of its own: a dramatic grid of shelving containing over 90 objects related to food and drink from the museum’s collection. Representing cultures around the world, from a Japanese porcelain picnic box to a double-spouted African wine pitcher, the display celebrates the variety of design and artistry devoted to global food and beverage traditions over time – and the ongoing importance of such traditions in the city of New Orleans.
In this artful atmosphere, Executive Chef Chris Montero’s menu of light meals reflects the city’s extensive culinary heritage and the museum’s expanding collections. Seasonal, artisanal, and local, it is more focused than ever on the happy profusion of food cultures in New Orleans. A newcomer on the Veggie Grain Bowl shortlist, for instance, contains Avocado, Shredded Red Cabbage, Carrots, Spinach, Chimichurri, Black Bean Salsa, and served over Quinoa; while the Provence Panini features Mediterranean ingredients like Herb-roasted Zucchini, Eggplant, and Tomato with Goat Cheese and Pesto, and a Five-Spice Chicken Salad celebrates flavors of Asia.
If art holds a mirror up to society, the New Orleans Museum of Art is working hard to make that reflection more accurate. Café NOMA is proud to be offering refreshment that does the same.