Warhol in Sarasota’s Selby Gardens

From Feb. 11 to June 30, Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida will exhibit a number of Andy Warhol’s works related to flowers, in dialog with nature at the 15-acre living museum. A+A recently interviewed Jennifer Rominiecki, president and chief executive officer of the gardens, about the exhibit, via email:

Why Warhol?
Because flowers and nature are not what people generally think of with this artist. By featuring his work, it makes people pause and wonder about this artist’s connection to the subject.

And why flowers?
Our living museum’s exhibitions relate major artwork to horticulture and nature. To give visitors a chance to see major works of art in the environment that inspired the pieces is a one-of-a-kind experience. As it relates to this exhibition, flowers are important because over the course of his four-decade career, Warhol created more than 10,000 images of flowers.

The intent of the exhibition?
We want to transport guests to another world through a multi-sensory, interdisciplinary experience. By coming to a botanical garden visitors can see, smell and touch the plants that inspire great artwork. They can hear the wind moving through the trees, and even taste foods inspired by the artwork. There are also cultural performances from groups like the ballet and opera, which offers another opportunity to consider how art in all its forms, and we as humans are moved by the natural world.

The inspiration for the exhibition?
We wanted to take the themes found in Warhol’s artwork like repetition, modular shapes and bright pops of color, and apply them to horticultural design. We did not want to mimic or recreate Warhol’s pieces, though. Instead, we are creating living art with plants in a way that perhaps Warhol would have done himself if he had plants instead of paint at his disposal.

The history of the gardens?
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens was established in 1971 and opened to the public in 1975 as the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the study and conservation of epiphytes, or plants that grow on other plants – such as orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns – without harming them. The 15-acre living museum is perched on Sarasota Bay and is named for Marie Selby, a Sarasota philanthropist who left her property for the creation of a botanical garden. The Gardens includes 10 distinct garden areas, a children’s rainforest garden, tropical conservatory and the Museum of Botany & the Arts.

The target audience in general?
Selby Gardens is enjoyed by a variety of audiences, from toddlers and children to adults of all ages interested in the beauty of nature. More than 200,000 people visit the Gardens each year.

The target audience for this exhibition?
There are special activities available for adults and families:
Adults: Warhol Nights: monthly evening viewings of the exhibition after dark, including performances by area cultural organizations. Includes food and drink.
Families: Andy’s Art Factory: monthly Saturday morning play dates for children with hands-on art and nature activities inspired by the exhibition.

Challenges of mounting this exhibition?
To jump over the barrier of people believing they already know exactly who Andy Warhol was and what inspired him. Everyone knows his Campbell’s Soup cans and celebrity portraits, but there is so much more to him than that. Our challenge – and opportunity – is to have visitors leave knowing they saw and learned something new.

For more, go here and here.

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