A Botanical Exhibition Explores Andy Warhol's Fascination with Flowers

Bromeliad Square | Photo by Darren Erickson | Courtesy Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Bromeliad Square | Photo by Darren Erickson | Courtesy Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Photo of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor21 February 2018

He’s the paradigm of urbanity, so what is Andy Warhol’s work doing in a tropical garden? In between the parties and the silkscreens of high-society figures, Warhol produced some 10,000 renderings of flowers over the course of his career. A new exhibition at Florida’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens delves into the legendary Pop artist’s lesser-known fascination with the natural world through Warhol: Flowers in the Factory.

Set to the backdrop of Sarasota Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens‘ 15 tropical acres currently stand as homage to the late, great Andy Warhol and his passion for flora.

Dennis Hopper, Warhol with Flower, 1964. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh | © Dennis Hopper, Courtesy of The Hopper Art Trust.

The exhibition, which opened to the public earlier this month, occupies the glasshouse conservatory with expertly-cultivated and designed epiphytes, bromeliads, ferns, and orchids; outdoor vignettes akin to the Pop artist’s recognizable aesthetic; and the Museum of Botany & the Arts, in which a curated selection of Warhol’s paintings, lithographs, silkscreens, and prints are on view alongside contextual photographs of the artist himself taken by his contemporaries.

The museum showcase will include four of Warhol’s hibiscus silkscreens as well as archival photographs of the Factory in New York City, juxtaposed with the artist’s own “forays into natural imagery; facsimiles of his preparatory drawings that reveal his process for creating the flower screenprints through his signature grids; and select images from the 1960s that recall the ‘Flower Power’ era,” according to the press release.

Andy Warhol, Flowers, c. 1967 | © 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints of Flowers in the Museum of Botany & the Arts | © Selby Gardens/Matthew Holler, 2018

Botanical designs by Selby Gardens horticulturalists inhabit the glass house as well as the garden’s outdoor space, “emphasizing the seriality and modular design of Warhol’s work” through carefully curated hibiscus, periwinkle, bromeliads, poinsettia and tillandsia.

An 82-foot-long wall of bromeliads reaches nearly 10 feet high in the glass house conservatory | © Selby Gardens/Matthew Holler, 2018
Oversized fabricated hibiscus flowers provide a colorful, waterfront scene that celebrates nature as art | © Selby Gardens/Matthew Holler, 2018

“This immersive exhibition examines Warhol’s work through the lens of flowers and nature, emphasizing the artist’s natural sensibilities through dynamic horticultural interpretations of his work,” the press release continues. “Observing Warhol’s Flowers alongside the nature that inspired him encourages a mutually enriched experience of art and the natural world.”

Highlighting the cosmopolitan artist’s lesser-known fascination with flora and conservation, Warhol: Flowers in the Factory lends an unusual perspective to a legendary figure’s work.

Warhol: Flowers in the Factory will remain on view through June 30, 2018 at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 S Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236.

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