The Constant Gardener

La Saison des Fêtes at Palacio de Cristal, Madrid

For Monet, flowers were bristling oceans of color. Georgia O’Keeffe employed the flower as a metaphor for fertility, secrecy and sexuality. Jeff Koons took blooms to the height of kitsch with his giant Puppy sculpture, which since 1997 has been guarding the gates of the Guggenheim Bilbao. For Pierre Huyghe, who is currently creating his own horticultural display at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro, flowers are a symbol of unity. Huyghe is no stranger to green fingers (in 2008 he transformed the Sydney Opera House into a rainforest), but this new lucid vision marks something of a departure from his usual surrealistic concerns. Entitling his work La Saison des Fêtes (The Season of Festivals), the French artist looks back to the Palacio de Cristal’s inaugural exhibition in 1887—a lush celebration of the flora and fauna of the Philippines (the country at that time was still a Spanish colony). Sidestepping this somewhat controversial imperialist context, Huyghe is re-imagining the greenhouse space as a simultaneous commemoration of 18 festivals worldwide. With his circular arrangement of flowers from a range of countries and cultures, the artist has created his very own United Nations of flora, showing the passing of the seasons as they blossom. Chinese New Year is heralded by plum trees, Easter by daffodils, and Spain’s Día de la Hispanidad by pink carnations. Huyghe hopes that at some point all will bloom at once, forming a veritable—if eclectic—Eden of cross-cultural festivities. Below is his horticultural calendar.

1/25  Chinese New Year Plum tree
2/07  Vietnamese New Year                  Jasmin 
2/14  Valentine's Day                               Rose
3/17  St Patrick's Day (Ireland) Clover
4/01  Hanami (Japan)                              Cherry blossom tree
4/05  Palm Sunday   Palm tree
4/12  Easter   Daffodil
4/25  Anzac (Australia)  Poppy
5/01  May Day   Lily of the valley
5/01 Labor Day Red carnation
6/20  St John’s Night (Romania)              Yellow gaillet
8/09 Meiboom (Belgium)    Beech tree
8/24 Ghost’s Day (China)   Bamboo 
10/12 Día de la Hispanidad (Spain)      Pink carnation
10/31 Halloween  Pumpkin
11/01 Día de los Muertos (Mexico)  Zempaxuchitl
11/01 All Saints’ Day Chrysanthemum
11/11 Armistice Day   Cornflower
12/25 Christmas  Christmas tree

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