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Chocolate art steals the show

Not only pirates would like to steal this treasure chest swissinfo.ch

The consumption of chocolate at Easter is a pleasure most people cannot resist but once the rabbits and eggs have all disappeared, what next?

This content was published on April 10, 2009 - 12:31

The city of Lucerne in central Switzerland has come up with an answer that should appeal to chocolate lovers of all ages.

"100% Chocolate" is the name of a new exhibition at the city's Museum of History. According to curator Alexandra Strobel, life without chocolate would be "impossible".

She herself normally consumes about 40 grams a day, but admits that she ate a lot more while preparing for the show – up to 200 grams daily. All in the name of research, of course.

"I received a lot of chocolate and I had to test it. It was quite a temptation, and very hard for me to resist," says Strobel.

For visitors, the temptation begins as soon as they approach the exhibition area. The sweet smell of chocolate fills the air, adding to the show's sensory appeal. At the chocolate bar, they can get a whiff of some of the essences used to flavour chocolate, among them caramel, jasmine and vanilla.

Smell and sample

"Fine chocolate has about 500 aromas, and here we can smell six of them," says Strobel. To satisfy any cravings that might have surfaced at this point, guests can sample three varieties of chocolate as well as roasted cocoa beans.

However, the highlight of the exhibition is a feast for the eyes rather than the tongue. Some 30 works of confectionery art are on display, all made primarily of chocolate. A dark chocolate model of the Eiffel Tower stands about a metre tall.

Nearby, a polar bear formed in white chocolate poses alongside a milk chocolate turtle. They look fairly robust, but will they survive until the end of the five-month exhibition?

"As long as it doesn't get too warm, a well-made chocolate sculpture can last for years," says Toni Steininger of Art on Food + Ice. The ideal temperature is 15-18°C. Steininger has two works on display: Wilhelm Tell and Lucerne's trademark lion. About half a metre tall, the Tell sculpture took the Swiss food artist some 50 hours to create.

Naturally, chocolate produced for mass consumption is another major theme of the exhibition. Strobel favours products from Felchlin and Ovomaltine, but all the big Swiss names are represented, as are some lesser-known ones. Special attention is given to luxury chocolates produced in small batches for the most discerning of consumers

Exotic and erotic

There are even a number of exotic as well as erotic forms of chocolate on display, some in the form of body parts, and others featuring highly unusual flavours. In some instances, it might be just as well that there's no opportunity for an on-the-spot taste test.

"We have some really crazy combinations, like chocolate and ham, or chocolate and cheese," points out Strobel. There's even chocolate-flavoured pasta, though it's unclear whether it's to be served as the main course or dessert.

Some people simply want to smell delicious, and this is reflected in the section devoted to beauty. A bathtub full of products involving cocoa butter helps illustrate this side of the sweet bean. Meanwhile, diverse video and audio recordings give the exhibition a multimedia flair.

The exhibition also addresses the controversial issue of child labour in the cocoa industry. As one of many partners of 100% Chocolate, the Berne Declaration is displaying its fair-trade Easter bunny along with information to raise awareness.

The chocolate rabbits are also among the numerous items for sale in the museum shop. Indeed, Strobel hopes visitors will go easy on the displays and indulge their sweet teeth by purchasing an edible souvenir.

"In addition to the shop, we also have a museum restaurant where you can try chocolate drinks, ice cream and cake," says Strobel, "So hopefully, people won't eat our sculptures and installations!"

The "100% Chocolate" exhibition runs until August 30, 2009.

swissinfo, Susan Vogel-Misicka in Lucerne

Chocolate sales

The Swiss chocolate industry in 2008 set a new record for the fifth year in a row.

Chocosuisse, the association representing Swiss chocolate manufacturers reported that sales rose equally at home and abroad.

Its 18 producers saw sales increase by two per cent on 2007 to 184,969 tons, with turnover improving by 9.3 per cent to SFr1.818 billion ($1.56 billion). More than 60 per cent of all the chocolate produced was exported.

The record amount sold was the equivalent of 12.4 kg of chocolate for each Swiss resident, an increase of 100g - or one bar.

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