Dieter Roth and the Chocolate Factory

Scrumdiddlyumptious. Chocolate busts of artist Dieter Roth in progress at Hauser & Wirth’s new downtown NYC exhibition space. (Photos: UnBeige)

Willy Wonka and Sigmund Freud would surely have agreed that making 385 chocolate busts of one’s father is not something that can be rushed. And so, with the late Dieter Roth‘s “Selbstturm” (Self Tower) barely half full of chocolate casts, his son, Björn, agreed that the makeshift kitchen–think plywood, a quartet of hot plates, aluminum stockpots, rubber molds–and the young people painstakingly producing them would become part of “Björn Roth. Dieter Roth,” the major exhibition that this week inaugurated Hauser & Wirth‘s massive downtown space, designed by Annabelle Selldorf.

“We didn’t have time to finish the chocolate tower,” said Björn, 51, standing before the bustling kitchen installation at Monday’s press preview. “So we decided that we would keep it all going until we’re finished.” Conceived by Dieter in 1994, the tower consists of a 16-foot-tall steel frame slotted with glass shelves on which chocolate busts of the artist are displayed, all facing, featurelessly, in the same direction. “Normally this is not a theme of the piece, but I like that it looks a bit like a skyscraper,” added Björn, who arrived in New York last month with his twentysomething sons Oddur and Einar to create the exhibition. “The thing is, it’s impossible to make a tower like that with cheap chocolate. You need first-quality, because otherwise it’s not stable. It will break.” He walked over to a stack of large white boxes stamped “E. Guittard“–for another family business, that of the Guittard Chocolate Company–stuck his hand in the one on top, and popped a morsel of dark chocolate couverture into his mouth. “Go ahead and taste it,” he invited. “It’s the best kind.”