Philadelphia Flower Show embraces fine art to create living landscapes

We’ve just been through two winter storms in less that a week, and another is on the way.

But the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society assures us that, yes, there will be a spring.


The Philadelphia Flower Show will open the first weekend of March at the Pennsylvania Convention Center with the theme of Art (or, more cheekily, “ARTiculture”).

Many past themes have been location-based, incuding France, Britain andr Hawaii. This year, 23 art museums from around the country — including the Guggenheim and the Getty — will collaborate with landscape designers to make floral environments based on, or inspired by, artworks.

This is the first time so many museums are participating in the single event, according to PHS president Drew Becher.

“They were, like, what do you want us to do? Who else is involved?” he said were the typical reactions when he approached museums with the idea. It took them a while to get their heads around the idea of an art-themed flower show.

“They felt this was really great for the art world. This really doesn’t happen that much. It’s usually galleries and collectors getting together at something like Art Basel, not these big institutions that have some of the world’s best art collections getting together,” said Becher.

One of the participating institutions is the Barnes Foundation, which recently moved to a location on Philadelphia’s Parkway. The old location of the galleries in the Lower Merion suburb was meticulously designed so that the art could be appreciated along with the outdoor gardens. The foundation also has a professional horticultural training program.

The Barnes Foundation will work with Swarthmore-based landscape designer Michael Petrie, who will create a floral environment based on the paintings of Henri Matisse.

“The Barnes is unique in the institutions represented here because they are the only institution that has a horticultural program, and has a direct involvement with horticulture,” said Petrie. “That’s one of the reasons I chose to work with the Barnes.”

In addition to floral arrangements and landscapes based on artworks, the show will feature original artwork, including rarely seen, flower silkscreens by Andy Warhol. The series of six prints normally hang out of public view inside the Boston corporate offices of Bank of America, a sponsor of the flower show.

“They’re a little more subdued. They are not in the Marylin Monroe or Jackie O mode,” said Tom Woodward, market president of Bank of America for the Philadelphia region, adding that the bank bought the Warhol prints shortly after they were made in 1970. “They are absolutely beautiful.”

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