Flowers and photography come together at Selby Gardens

Close on the heels of its blockbuster spring exhibition featuring photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and punk-rock icon Patti Smith, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will premiere a new exhibition this summer that celebrates the beauty and diversity of flowers through the art of contemporary photography.

Flora Imaginaria: The Flower in Contemporary Photography will display works by 49 internationally acclaimed photographers, many of them at the forefront of their field. The show, which is organized in partnership with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP), runs from July 16 through September 25 at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus.

“We are excited to continue ‘The Year of Photography’ at Selby Gardens with another world premiere of contemporary art in dialogue with nature at our Downtown Sarasota campus,” Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens, said. “Diverse images of flowers drawn from many different genres of photography will create a vibrant bouquet befitting our model as The Living Museum.®”

The new exhibition will include a total of 72 photographic prints, some installed amid the living plant collection along a shady path through the Gardens and others displayed inside the Museum of Botany & the Arts. Some of the photographers to be featured have specialized in flower imagery for many years, while others have done only one serious project or even taken just one or two pictures involving flowers. Works by celebrated artists such as Pedro Almodóvar, Valérie Belin, Vik Muniz, Viviane Sassen, and Martin Schoeller will appear side by side with compelling photographs by emerging artists. Many of the images to be seen have not appeared previously in a major exhibition. All were produced over the past three decades.

The innovative indoor/outdoor show was co-developed with FEP, an independent nonprofit organization that produces museum-quality photography exhibitions circulated around the world. It is curated by William A. Ewing and Danaé Panchaud, an international team of experienced photography experts.

“This colorful, wide-ranging show celebrates the flower’s perennial attraction and extraordinary endurance as an inspiring subject in art,” Ewing said. “From the humble specimen to the elaborate arrangement, the flower imagery on display will present a sumptuous feast for the eyes, all in the exceptional setting of Selby Gardens.”

Following its debut at Selby Gardens, the show will travel to other venues in the U.S. and beyond. Flora Imaginaria also follows a similarly themed exhibition of 30 years ago—Flora Photographica—which was first shown in London’s Serpentine Gallery and subsequently traveled to New York, Toronto, and elsewhere.

Flora Imaginaria is a worthy follow-up to our recent exhibition featuring the late Robert Mapplethorpe’s iconic flower photographs,” Rominiecki added. “Mapplethorpe’s exquisite images made floral still life a significant contemporary genre and heightened the status of photography as an art form. The earliest works in this new show were made a few years after his passing, thus they represent the continued evolution of the art of floral photography.”

Selby Gardens members may preview the full show on Friday, July 15, before it opens to all visitors on July 16. Access to the exhibition is included with general admission to the Downtown Sarasota campus. For more information and to purchase tickets to Selby Gardens, go online to www.selby.org/visit.

About the curators:

William A. Ewing is an author, lecturer, and curator of photography. Director of the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne from 1996 to 2010, he has written several publications on photography, including The Body (1994), Landmark: The Fields of Landscape Photography (2014), Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements (2016) and Civilization (2018), all published by Thames & Hudson. His first book on the subject of flowers, also named Flora Photographica (1991), looked at the subject from 1835 to 1990.

Danaé Panchaud is a curator, museologist, and lecturer specializing in photography, and is the director of the Centre de la photographie Genève. From 2018 to 2021, she was director and curator of the Photoforum Pasquart in Biel, one of the main Swiss institutions dedicated to contemporary photography. She is the president of Spectrum, the national association of Swiss institutions for photography.

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