‘Flowers Forever’: flowers in art and culture on display at the Kunsthalle in Munich, Germany

To humans and nature alike, flowers are of immense importance. Flowers Forever is the first comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the art and cultural history of the flower from antiquity to the present at the Kunsthalle, in Munich, Germany, open until August 27, 2023. With paintings, sculptures, photographs, design, fashion, interactive media installations, and scientific objects, the Kunsthalle München presents a fascinating, thematically organized, and elaborately staged exhibition parcours addressing the role of flowers in art and science, in mythology and religion, as well as in literature, politics, economy, and ecology.

The presentation comprises around one hundred and seventy works from international collections as well as installations created especially for the exhibition. Important examples from the histories of art and design enter into a fruitful dialog with new artistic approaches. The exhibition features works by Jan Brueghel the Younger, Abraham Mignon, Barbara Regina Dietzsch, Lawrence Alma- Tadema, Hannah Höch, Andreas Gursky, Miguel Chevalier, Ann Carrington, Patricia Kaersenhout, Kehinde Wiley, DRIFT, and many other artists. They all bring the multifaceted cultural history of flowers to life in impressive ways.

Art and science have always inspired one another when depicting flowers. Scientific research findings in the natural sciences were provided with illustrations as artistic as they were precise. The study of the manifold manifestations of flowers from all over the world in turn inspired artists to floral creations that went far beyond the purely botanical representation. They reflect the relationship between art, nature, and science and at the same time celebrate the splendor and diversity of floral shapes and colors.

Flowers have always held great symbolic power for us humans—be it in mythology and religion, in art and literature or in politics. The fact that the symbols vary from region to region and have repeatedly changed over the centuries indicates that people have always attributed the most diverse meanings to flowers. Among other things, they stand for life and its transience, are used as a sign of friendship or love in interpersonal communication or represent power and resistance in politics and society.

With the tulip mania in the Netherlands, the trade in flowers became a major speculative business for the first time in the 17th century, as evidenced by highly artistic furniture and vases, but also satirical paintings. Today, both floriculture and trade have long been organized globally, which prompts artists to deal with ecological and social issues. They confront us with our consumer behavior and address the effects of human activity on the environment. This is also the case with the installation Calyx by British artist Rebecca Louise Law (1980), which was created as a joint project and forms the grand finale of the parcours, comprising some 200,000 dried flowers.

Featured among others are: Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601–1678), Abraham Mignon (1640– 1679), Barbara Regina Dietzsch (1706–1783), Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706–1775), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912), Émile Gallé (1846–1904), Hannah Höch (1889–1978), Owanto (1953), Andreas Gursky (1955), Ai Weiwei (1957), Tamiko Thiel (1957), Miguel Chevalier (1959), Ann Carrington (1962), Patricia Kaersenhout (1966), Kehinde Wiley (1977), Kapwani Kiwanga (1978), Viktor&Rolf (founded in 1993), DRIFT (founded in 2007) and many more. The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive and richly illustrated publication that continues the interdisciplinary approach in three extensive interviews with international experts from botany, art, culture, literature, and business and grants inspiring insights into the cultural history of flowers. In addition, short texts illuminate the background stories of selected exhibits.

The exhibition is organized by the Kunsthalle München in collaboration with the musée des impressionnismes Giverny. It also became the starting point of the city-wide Flower Power Festivals Munich 2023. Celebrating nature in the city—this is the motto of this year’s Flower Power Festival Munich 2023, which will take place from February 3 to October 7. The Kunsthalle München, the Gasteig (Europe’s largest cultural center), the Botanical Garden Munich-Nymphenburg, and BIOTOPIA – Naturkundemuseum Bayern are the initiators of this city-wide festival, in which everyone is invited to participate in, from large institutions to small associations, renowned cultural institutions to private initiatives.

More info: Kunsthalle München (kunsthalle-muc.de)


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