Marc Quinn, Garden, 2000. Cold room, stainless steel, heated glass, refrigerating equipment, mirrors, turf, real plants, acrylic tank, low viscosity silicon oil held at -20°C, 3.2 × 12.7 × 5.4 m / 10 ft 6 in × 41 ft 8 in × 17 ft 10 in, Private collection. Photo Attilio Maranzano. Courtesy Marc Quinn studio and Fondazione Prada

The Flowers frozen in time

Marc Quinn's high tech Garden of Eden is submerged in 25 tons of frozen silicon

Our perfectly conceived new title Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom, brings together some of the most important, impressive and absolutely beautiful floral images ever committed to canvas, film, sculpture or screen. These vary from classic works by artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Georgia O’Keeffe, through to contemporary masterpieces by Alex Katz and Gregory Crewdson.

A great many of the works in the book emphasise the fleeting and natural aspects of the plants featured. However, one work switches these expectations around, with a display of flowers kept, perpetual, at their peak. Here’s how our new book characterises the work.

Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom
Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom

“Anthuriums, pink speckled pitcher plants, a dahlia, a yellow-flowered red hot poker and a bromeliad inflorescence harmoniously spring from the manicured evenness of a tidy English lawn. The colours and shapes are breathtaking, but something is awry. Nothing is out of place; everything is silent. No leaf quivers in a gentle breeze and no petal shows the signs of time’s passing. Housed in a massive glass tank, this tableau by the contemporary British artist Marc Quinn is submerged in 22.5 tonnes (25 tons) of low-viscosity silicon kept at –20°C (–4˚F).

“The plants look vibrantly alive but are in fact frozen solid, preserved in an impossible dream – a fragment of the Garden of Eden materialized by the artifice of art and the complicity of high-end technology. The silicon is kept at the correct temperature by a powerful refrigerating system, power generators and a set of custom-made cold lights. What seems at first glance natural could not be more artificial. Closer inspection reveals that all the varieties in Quinn’s enchanted garden are cultivars, plants selected and crossbred by humans over hundreds of years. The colours, shapes and sizes of their flowers are the tangible result of society’s desires. Quinn’s garden reminds us that all gardens are special places, not quite nature yet not mere artifice: places in which our relationship with plants becomes gorgeously complicated by our desire to test the natural boundaries of beauty.”

To see how this beautiful, though slightly deathly work, fits into the greater sweep of floral art history, get a copy of Flower here.