Why artists, architects and designers love Daniel Ost
He's created displays for galleries, Royal weddings and fashion shows - now you can get to know him too
“What do you call what Daniel Ost creates? A flower arrangement? Certainly not.” writes Dutch novelist and journalist Cees Nooteboom in his contribution to our new monograph, Daniel Ost: Floral Art and the Beauty of Impermanence. It's a sentiment echoed by the New York Times, which stated in a recent profile that to call Ost “a master flower designer is akin to calling Annie Leibovitz a shutterbug.”
Certainly, the 60-year-old Belgian owns flower shops in both Brussels and his home town of Sint-Niklaas, close to the Dutch border. He provides arrangements for prestigious individuals, events and occasions. He's even been known to sell bouquets. Yet Ost's better-known creations aren't the sort of thing you would necessarily send home on Mothers Day.
Take the vegetal interpretation of Ravel’s Boléro, fashioned from swelling clay hills and dancing leek flowers which Ost installed on a landfill site near Sint-Niklaas in 1987; or the upright ring of woven willow branches, spilling out a scatter of white potatoes, which Ost created for Seoul’s Gana Art Gallery in 2004; or the long-leaf pine arrangement built for the Grand Shrine Heisei, at Izumo, in Japan, and inspired by the local monk's habits.
Ost – who has received numerous awards and accolades in both Europe and in the Far East – is better classified as an artist who works with flowers, plants and trees; he draws from diverse disciplines, and inspires delight and admiration in an equally heterogeneous set of admirers.
“I often find inspiration from Ost’s creations,” writes the acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma in his contribution to our new book, adding that, after taking in one of Ost's displays, "I’m ready to abandon my own career as an architect in the pursuit of a new integrated field that transcends categorization.”
The fashion designer Dries Van Noten, King Baudouin of Belgium, the French luxury goods magnate and art collector Francois Pinault, are all fans of Ost's work too, as are countless more landscape architects and horticulturists around the world.
Our new book details Ost's early years when he was fresh out of a Belgian military academy where he'd been sent by his father in an attempt to divert him from his nascent interest in flowers. The title also describes how the discipline Ost picked up in the barracks actually enabled his ambitions. He won acclaim first in Europe before venturing to Japan in 1983 where he went on to master the rarefied culture of flower and plant presentation.
The book reproduces images from some of Ost's best-known undertakings, including award-winning competition displays for the Ghent Floralies; breathtaking commissions or the Belgian Consulate in Hong Kong and the Belgian embassy in Tokyo; and delightful creations for The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, the French champagne house Laurent-Perrier, and for the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
In terms of imagery, these are the kinds of works that would complement pieces reproduced in our Anish Kapoor or Richard Deacon monographs. His use of bark, fallen leaves, twigs and other ignoble ingredients, brings to mind, at times, the artistic principles of Arte Povera. Ost's large-scale pieces bring to mind some of the site specific works in Art and Place, while the more conventional horticultural creations are akin to some inclusions in The Gardeners' Garden.
Architecturally, Ost's creations are in dialogue with Shigeru Ban and Toyo Ito. Moreover Ost's long-standing appreciation of Japanese horticulture and designs shed light on some of the principles outlined in our Wa book, and our forthcoming survey of Japanese domestic architecture, Jutaku.
Yet, perhaps we should regard this beautiful, hardback, 440-page career retrospective as a delightful extension of Phaidon's list, by a creator who, often placed within one specific category, has enlarged his chosen field. As Ost likes to put it, “I begin where others stop.”
To find out more, order a copy of the book here, and check back soon for more on this fascinating title.