Maybe I'm naive, but I don't associate haute cuisine with Des Moines. Leave it to my husband, however, to scout out a restaurant with a chef who was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for best chef in the Midwest, which is a pretty big deal (especially to my husband).
First impressions were good. I liked the name--"Proof"--and the unassuming location in a brown brick building next to a sculpture park was very nice.
The presentation of the food plays a huge part in upscale restaurants like this one. If you do it right, you can pass off a very thin slice of cucumber wrapped around a thin bit of salami as an actual course and charge a lot of money for it:
Having just eaten, we figured it was good to begin with Five Plate Pentagon (1986) by American minimalist sculptor Richard Serra (born 1938), known for working with sheet metal:
I saw another one of these bronze horses at the Portland Art Museum. The American artist, Deborah Butterfield (born 1949), has made more than 1,000 over the course of her career. They look like they are made of driftwood, and in a way they are. Butterfield starts by assembling the structure with pieces of scrap wood. Then she photographs her work, takes it apart, and sends the wood pieces to the foundry to be cast in bronze. She then reassembles the pieces and paints them to look like weathered wood. This first one is entitled Juno (1989):
Thinker on a Rock (1997) by Welsh artist Barry Flanagan (1941-2009) is a whimsical combination of Roger Rabbit and Auguste Rodin's The Thinker. When the Pappajohns commissioned this sculpture, they had Flanagan make a second one for the National Gallery of Art:
Judith Shea (American, born 1948) also references Auguste Rodin in her sculpture Post Balzac (1990). The Rodin sculpture of Balzac showed the novelist wearing the dressing gown he often wore when he was writing, but the focus was on Balzac's face. Shea's gown is empty, possibly symbolizing a 20th century shift from inner meaning to outer appearances:
Spider (1997) is by Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), a French-American artist. Believe it or not, this and other similar sculptures of spiders represent the artist's mother and are often titled Maman, the French word for "mother." Bourgeois's mother was a weaver who repaired tapestries for a living, and so this is a friendly spider, like Charlotte in Charlotte's Web. I've seen another, much larger Bourgeois spider (32 feet tall) in Rippongi Hills in Tokyo:
Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (born 1964) created twelve of these heads to represent the Man in the Moon. The two in the park, Moonrise, January and Moonrise, August, are wonderfully kooky--Easter Island meets The Smurfs:
Gary Hume (born 1962) sculpted Back of Snowman (White) and Back of Snowman (Black) in 2002. They are affectionately known as "Salt and Pepper" or "The Chess Pieces." John Pappajohn had seen the white snowman and commissioned a second one in black to represent diversity:
If you are familiar with Japanese manga (comic strips) and anime (cartoons), this 12-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture entitled White Ghost (2010) by Japanese artist Yashitomo Nara (born 1959) will look familiar:
Chinese-born Italian-American artist Marco Polo Di Suvero (born 1933) gave this steel piece the creative title T8 (1985). Can you tell the artist once was a construction worker?
The sculpture that most dominates the park is the three-story-tall Nomade (2006) by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa (born 1955). Made of steel letters, it is a good representation of man in the information age. Several years ago we saw the brother of this sculpture, Alchemist, at MIT
Such an amazing park! And did I mention that it is free??? Every city needs generous patrons like the Pappajohns!