Bouquet to Art 2012: Craft Imitates Art


Every spring for the last 28 years San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museum de Young organizes a very popular event Bouquets to Art. More than a hundred floral designers from all over the Bay Area submit their choices and concepts to a panel of judges who decide on the final list of exhibitors and those chosen then create floral arrangements based on the art in de Young permanent collection.

I love flowers so I’m very surprised I didn’t know about this exhibition until this year. I will try not to miss future events: it was a great experience, both my vSO and I didn’t notice how two and half hours went by.

Elihu Vedder, Death of Abel - painting & flower arrangement

I’ve never seen so many people in this museum before! It was impressive. Since for this event photography without a flash was allowed sometimes it took up to five minutes to get in the position to take a picture without people blocking something.

Despite multiple flower arrangements in each room the museum didn’t smell like a flower shop. Mostly I could smell other visitors’ perfumes. I wore Chanel No 19 parfum: I wanted to smell nice but not to overpower any possible floral aroma with my perfume. It didn’t. The only room with a distinct floral fragrance in the air was the one with the composition made of thousands of gardenia petals.

Gardenia petals

The smell was so captivating that I didn’t even think of looking for the art piece which that composition was supposed to represent. All I wanted to do was to smell it closer. So did many other people. I couldn’t find a moment to take a shot without anybody in the picture.

Gardenia petals

The exhibition was uneven: there were very creative inspirational compositions as well as very literal recreations of the art pieces (including a bucolic scene with a toy size cow or the one with banal lampshades on a table). I won’t spend space demonstrating those that I didn’t like and will focus on those that I think are interesting.

John Singleton Copley, Mrs. Daniel Sargent - painting & flower arrangement

Frank Duveneck, Study for Guard of the Harem - painting & flower arrangement

William Joseph McCloskey, Oranges in Tissue Paper - painting & flower arrangement

It isn’t easy to choose just several pictures for this post out of dozens I took. I tried to catch both – the composition and the art behind it (literally and figuratively). I wish there were fewer people, better lighting and a tripod.

Nicolas Africano, Untitled - sculpture & floral arrangementGottfried Helnwein, Epiphany II - painting & flower arrangement

Red figure

Chihuly’s glass is created to be reproduce in bouquets!

Dale Chihuly, Ultramarine Stemmed Form with Orange - vase & flower arrangement

One of the compositions that impressed me the most was inspired by Willard Leroy Metcalf’s painting Winter’s Festival.

Although appearing nearly monochromatic at first glance, such images reveal Metcalf’s extraordinarily subtle yet inventive use of color. Among the vegetation, vibrant hints of aqua, pink, gold, and even burgundy invigorate the subdued palette and suggest the dormant vitality of the frozen flora. Blue-tinted shadows and underlying traces of violet and lavender remind us that snow, never purely white, admits to endless variation. (Hood Museum of Art)

That description perfectly fits both the painting and the installation.

Willard Leroy Metcalf, Winter’s Festival - painting & floral arrangement

As I was exiting one of the rooms I overheard a conversation from a group entering that room:

–          Look, an infinity symbol!
–          Nature, infinity – it’s clever…

From their angle of viewing they couldn’t see that Arthur Tress’ photograph of a donut was an archetype for that composition. When I told this story to a friend who also attended that exhibition, she suggested calling that composition An Infinite Donut.

Arthur Tress, Untitled - photograph & flower arrangement


Images: my own


22 thoughts on “Bouquet to Art 2012: Craft Imitates Art

  1. I love flower shows! I went to the Boston flower show once, and must have spent at least six hours there— it was amazing, and I took rolls and rolls of photos (this was before I had a good digital camera, obviously). I was astounded by the artistry, and the “no expense spared” presentation of the works.

    Your pictures are beautiful, thank you for sharing them <3


    • Thank you, Dee.
      Next year I plan to go there for the opening. Florists maintain compositions for five days but I think I saw some wilting here and there – so I want to try to catch them in the beginning.


  2. Very nice!! (And this post offers further proof to me that you are inching closer to loving tuberose, though I’m sure you’ll deny this … but if you love the scent of all those gardenias, I’m predicting eventual tuberose love, too.) :D

    Okay, don’t hurt me for that comment, Miss U! I’m moving on now, I promise. ;)


    • I’m working on it! :) Just three days ago I was testing By Kilian’s Beyond Love again. First minute or two I was thingking: “Hm… smells nice… Do I start liking tuberose?” but in a while I got tired and told myself again that tuberose still wasn’t my note.
      Ask me again in a year.


  3. Wow, that are some amazing flower arrangements! What a fun way to celebrate and interprete pieces of art. My mind is just going on and on about how this can be done with other mediums, maybe create dishes of food, getting pantomime artists or dancers to do an interpretation or designers to do pieces of clothing…. There is just no limit here :)


  4. Oh boy, this is simply fabulous, and you have done great justice to the floral “installations” with your photos, even if you felt the conditions were not ideal. I wish this were a touring exhibition, and would come my way!


  5. What gorgeous photos, no matter how unideal the situation for photography! Thanks for posting this. I’ve never heard of such a flower show, and it sounds – and looks – gorgeous; I wish you could put the smells on the internet too!


  6. So pretty! I love shows like this that take a multisensory approach to the art work in the museum. It adds that extra layer of richness to the experience. And especially when the extra layer is also a “smell” layer as in this case.


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