LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The first thing you notice when you see Prudence Staite's mosaic portrait of Marilyn Monroe made from smarties and chocolate is the smell.
Even after your nose has adjusted to the powerful aroma that wafts from the chocolate canvas, your eyes have to take in the hundreds of smarties dotted to form an edible version of Andy Warhol's original painting.
Britain's first edible exhibition "Smartie Art," at London's Victoria & Albert Childhood Museum, features three chocolate paintings by Staite that copy well-known artworks, including Andy Warhol's "Marilyn Monroe," English graffiti artist Banksy's "Spotless" and 17th century French painter Georges Seurat's "Bathers."
It also contains 11 smaller edible works by Staite, including sculptures made from designs by children she has worked with.
The paintings, which were made from over 50 kg (110 lb) of smarties, took two weeks to construct and had to be stored in a refrigerated studio.
Chocolate was also used to coat the frames, and as an adhesive to stick individual smarties to paper to prevent their color from running.
The exhibition hall, decorated with paper flowers, pink chairs and tables, and divided into sections by a low white picket fence, looks more like a classroom than a museum.
One of the only food artists in the world, Staite brought her love of food and art together five years ago, when she could not decide on a career as a chef or an artist.
"I wanted to focus on my passion for food and do something really different in the art world. it was all about what you saw," Staite told Reuters.
"There was nothing you could pick up, everything was behind screens, it was very unfriendly...you just feel completely out of place," Staite said.
Children who come to the exhibition will be able to hear Staite speak about art history and food before trying their hand at food artistry themselves, using sacks of chocolate on hand at the museum to create their own edible landscapes.
"I'm in a way promoting how good quality chocolate should be respected," Staite said. "It should be something that you sit down, you unwrap, you savor everything about it. It's not something that's just eaten digested and gone."
All of Staite's works are completely edible on the premise that food, like art, is best enjoyed when audiences can interact with it.
"The eating is the climax of the work, it's the enjoyment that people get from chocolate...It's the final thing. I'm not happy until I've seen them all stuffed with chocolate," Staite said.
The "Smartie Art" exhibition opened Friday at the Victoria & Albert Childhood Museum and will last until Sunday.
Editing by Paul Casciato