This autumn’s major exhibition at Louisiana, The Flower as Image, with about 150 works by some of the world’s greatest artists, is a sheer pleasure cruise through a familiar subject – the flower – which is revealed along the way as a surprisingly diverse and rich motif. The point of departure for Louisiana’s exhibition is twofold: the observation that artists continues, through the twentieth century, to return to the flower as subject, and the question that thus arises: Why? Why has the flower fascinated so many artists from the 1860s until today? Why do they paint, photograph, mould and shape flowers in all sorts of materials and in all nuances?
It is thus the ambition of the exhibition to show how, throughout the epoch of modern art, the artists use, treat, challenge, express and experiment with the flower and its potential in the artistic process. Or, to put it differently, with the flower motif as the focus of attention, we tell the grand story of the way modern art has developed as a medium, as a language and as a form of experience.
The structure of the exhibition
The exhibition – which is being shown in the museum’s recently modernized South Wing – is a unique opportunity to see a whole array of works by the great classical masters as well as today’s acknowledged younger artists. The theme of the interaction between nature and art is initially struck up by Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s marvellous work Vertical Garden (1992/99), which is a sequence of several thousand flowers creating a waving motion on the wall.
Then the public is guided into the first ‘cool’ room, where one can follow the development of the flower from the concrete to the abstract image with works
by among others Georgia O’Keeffe, David Hockney, Irving Penn and Yves Klein, followed by the ‘incomparable classics’ room, where works by some of the greatest masters like Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Edouard Manet and a whole three pictures by Natalia Goncharova can be seen.
The theme of the third room is works where the flower as motif gradually dissolves into more surrealistic forms, by among others James Ensor, Pablo Picasso, Jean Fautrier and Max Ernst, followed in the fourth room by the ‘painterly-expressive’ works of Emil Nolde, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian and Cy Twombly, backed up by drawings and water-colours by among others Ellsworth Kelly.
The flower as a classic symbol of love, sex and death is dealt with in the sixth room of the exhibition, where photographs and water-colours by artists like Egon Schiele, Robert Mapplethorpe and Edward Steichen illustrate this theme; and after moving up into the museum’s Interval Room, where one installation of three by the Japanese contemporary artist Yoshihiro Suda is in fact hiding, and where the Pipilotti Rist video “Ever Is Over All” from 1997 is shown in the adjacent library.
Finally, we encounter the exuberant response of Pop and contemporary art to the classic subject in the seventh room with works by Andy Warhol, Marc Quinn, James Rosenquist, Gary Hume and Beatriz Milhazes as well as several others – after which, on the way down from this floor, on the large landing, one can experience Paul Morrison’s work Sori (2004) executed on the wall specifically for the site and occasion.
Generous loans, rare and site-specific works
Many of the world’s leading museums and great collectors have shown unique generosity and kindness in making it possible for Louisiana to mount an exhibition of this kind, consisting of about 150 international loans.
As an example, the museum has succeeded in borrowing one of the greatest and most significant icons of the twentieth century, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Giant Poppies from 1927 – never shown before in Denmark. It is also possible to see several of Piet Mondrian’s flower-paintings, a rare opportunity in Denmark, and the museum has been able to borrow six paintings by van Gogh.
Not only Paul Morrison, but also Yoshihiro Suda (with the work Morning Glory) have shown great interest in the exhibition. Both artists paid visits to Louisiana, as they wanted to create site-specific works for the exhibition.
Louisiana Revy and Louisiana Magasin no. 14
In connection with the exhibition we are publishing a catalogue as an issue of Louisiana Revy with the following articles: a preface and the article “Motif and motivation – on the flower as image” by Poul Erik Tøjner; “Some questions for Flora” by Ernst Jonas Bencard, a list of works and a complete list of lenders.
In addition, Louisiana Magasin no. 14 (in Danish), which is appearing in connection with the exhibition, will feature the articles “The Flower as Image – the spiritual marguerite route” by Poul Erik Tøjner, “Dusty Roads” by John Ashbery, “Not a nightingale in sight” by Anders Kold and “Eat flowers, eat flowers” by Tina Jørstian.