close up image of a floral arrangement
Flowers and Photography by Doan Ly.

NYCxDESIGN is in Full Bloom with Floral Craft Activations

For the spring festival, Vitra releases a Flower Guide, Lutfi Janania unveils an installation, and the Museum of Arts and Design opens an exhibition, all positioning floral craft at the forefront of contemporary design.

The contemporary art establishment—with an often reductive understanding of craft—has framed working with plants and botanicals as “mere decoration” where the beauty of a bouquet is viewed as accentuating a space rather than functioning as art within it. Challenging that notion, vanguards of floral craft are highlighting the discipline’s artistry and ephemeral nature with a variety of exhibitions on view this spring. 

“In the last three years there has been a seat change in the medium itself where people are becoming emboldened to experiment with new forms and contexts for plants,” says Sophie Parker of WIFE botanical studio. Her work asserts the viability of petals, leaves, and stems as raw materials for painting and sculpture with a saccharine aesthetic underpinned by utility. “As a time-based medium, there is a tension between creating art and keeping them alive—a durational quality that pulls you into the artistic narrative, unlike other artforms.”

image of a floral arrangement against a black backdrop
Flowers and Photography by Manu Torres
image of four abstract vases with babys breath in them against a white backdrop
Vases Découpage. Courtesy Vitra

This month during NYCxDESIGN’s 10th Anniversary Festival, Swiss furniture maker Vitra celebrates innovation in floral art with the release of their Vitra Flower Guide, the introduction of the Vase Découpage collection by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and the launch of an installation by botanical artist Lutfi Janania on view in Vitra’s Madison Avenue studio through May 18. Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design’s (MAD) is also opening a Flower Craft exhibition in tandem.

Vitra’s studio opens publicly by appointment through the installation’s duration where guests may experience a variety of floral-spatial interventions from the aforementioned guide as brought to life by Janania—each situation presenting aspects of living enhanced by flower craft at scales from human to tabletop. The festivities commence on May 11 with a conversation hosted by Vitra’s North America president, Meilssa Shelton, with Janania and Elissa Auther, curator of MAD’s upcoming exhibition, then close on May 18 with a talk focused on dynamic space and flexible office design.

Image of a multicolored floral arrangement against a white backdrop
Flowers and Photography by Kristen Alpaugh

Visitors will also experience a selection of showcased objects in dialogue with the floral arrangements. “The Vases Découpage reflect the spirit of the times, inviting users to create varying compositions and make the object their own,” says Shelton. The four styles available consist of a cast cylindrical vessel that may be combined with abstract slabs or bars of clay, which are attached to or positioned in the vase. As the flora arranged in them take on a personal aura in the home, so do the unique compositions of each vessel.

On view May 14 through June 26 MAD’s Flower Craft explores the art of floral design within the context of contemporary art and the evolution of craft articulated through the fine and often experimental works of Kristen Alpaugh, Noritaka Noda, Lutfi Janania, Doan Ly, Manu Torres, and Emily Thompson. Each week, the exhibition will feature pieces from one of the six participating artists as they engage with the ephemerality of their unique compositions before finishing with a series of workshops by additional artisans. “It was designed to be an inclusive, creative experience for all,” says MAD’s Deputy Director of Communications, Wendi Parson, when speaking on the concept of the show.  “We are literally transforming the gallery into a studio classroom where anyone can experiment with flowers as a medium of art and design. It’s going to be exciting, inspiring, and, of course, beautiful.”

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