The Flowers that stopped wars

Our new book Flower includes this delicate recreation of a 2013 centrepiece that played its part in high power global politics
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Taryn Simon, Agreement for cooperation on China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite in Pakistan, Aiwan-e-Sadr, Islamabad, Pakistan, May 22, 2013, from Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015. Archival inkjet print and text on archival herbarium paper in mahogany frame, 2.2 × 1.9 × 0.1 m / 7 ft 1 in × 6 ft 1 in × 3 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Taryn Simon, Agreement for cooperation on China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite in Pakistan, Aiwan-e-Sadr, Islamabad, Pakistan, May 22, 2013, from Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015. Archival inkjet print and text on archival herbarium paper in mahogany frame, 2.2 × 1.9 × 0.1 m / 7 ft 1 in × 6 ft 1 in × 3 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

The leaves may be falling outside, but in our new book, Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom, nature is full of life. This expertly conceived new title 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 such artists as Jan Van Huysum, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet, through to contemporary masterpieces by the likes of Kehinde Wiley and Raymond Pettibon.

Many simply focus on the beauty of the natural world, but one particular inclusion shows how a simple floral display played a crucial role in the far less sublime sphere of global politics.

“In her Paperwork and the Will of Capital series, American artist Taryn Simon sets sumptuous floral centrepieces against minimal colour fields,” explains our new book. “Re-created from archival photographs of the signings of political treaties and decrees, the dramatic flower arrangements, along with their flag-like backgrounds, underscore the pageantry and performance of governmental power. This particular arrangement of Gladiolus hybrids from the Grandiflorus group is a re-creation of a specific centrepiece that was made to commemorate the signing of a political accord in 2013. China, concerned by the dominance of the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, cemented a deal to enhance the strategic capacity of China’s own satellite system, ‘Beidou’, with its ally Pakistan in the presidential palace Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad.

“Embedded in the frame on the right-hand side Simon provides a piece of contextual information: ‘Establishing Beidou ground stations in Pakistan could bolster Pakistan’s national defense technology by enhancing the reliability and accuracy of various guided weapons systems.’ The work points towards Simon’s wider interests, including the examination of hidden histories, and the contours and mechanics of state-led power and its effects both globally and locally. Simon invites us to consider striking arrangements of flowers as agents carrying meaning, representing accord, alliance, perhaps even peace between nations – all the while building greater state-level powers.”

To see how Simon’s flowers fit into a wider bed of historical images, order a copy of Flower here.


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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