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July 15, 2015

The Language of Flowers at the Gucci Museum of Florence

The seventh exhibition of the Pinault Collection until 20 September

The Language of Flowers is apparently a great tribute to one of Gucci’s most iconic motifs, Flora. But this is true in appearance only.

The seventh exhibition of the Pinault Collection at the Gucci Museum, curated by Martin Bethenod, director of Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, the exhibition – on view until 20 September - brings together the works of four artists, produced between 1967 and 2012, using floral themes.

The subject, however, is much more complex than it seems: in addition to their powerful visual seduction, all the works evoke a message of great delicacy and ambiguity, which at times even takes on a strongly sensual connotation. The themes that emerge are those of memory, vanity, politics, the value of art.

In her two works on display - Calendula (Marigold) and Phlox New Hybrid (with Dahlia Redskin), both from 2010, French photographer Valérie Belin, born in 1964, combines the female face with floral motifs narrating the ambiguity between real and virtual, presence and absence, seduction and coldness.

Einder (Horizon), 2007-2008, by Marlene Dumas, is a flower arrangement that floats on a sea of midnight blue. Behind its beauty and delicate colours, its message actually evokes pain and mourning: the flowers in the work are those placed on the coffin of the artist’s mother, who had died a short time earlier.

Fantôme (Jasmin) by Latifa Echakhch is a sculpture in which flowers become a political metaphor.

The two diptychs by Irving Penn (1917-2009), Cottage Tulip, Sorbet, New York, 1967, and Single Oriental Poppy, 1968, show the classicism of their composition and the meticulous attention paid to their printing, the dimension of complete formal control, the search for absolute perfection and, at the same time, the awareness of the passing of time and of the vanity of all things, that so profoundly mark the works of this master photographer.

An exhibition, therefore, with two dimensions: on the one hand, the allure of the colours, the eye-catching forms, the subjects’ seductive charm. On the other hand, the message - almost a warning - that expresses the transience of beauty and perfection through the imagery of flowers. 


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