A vibrant account of humanity’s fascination with the beauty and fragility of flowers.

4 September 2021 to 9 January 2022


Marc Quinn, Bhasat Milap at Assi Ghat, 2010. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art. Photo: ARKEN

A blooming abundance of art awaits you at this year’s major autumn exhibition, Flowers in Art. The exhibition presents a brightly coloured bouquet of fascinating works from the last two centuries, created by international and Danish artists ranging from Claude Monet and Anna Syberg to Melanie Bonajo.

Alhed Larsen, Rhododendron, 1887-1927. Johannes Larsen Museum. Photo: Jens Frederiksen

Sumptuous and sensitive

We can’t get enough of flowers! With their beauty, lushness and fragrance, they stimulate our senses and have a therapeutic effect on our health. Flowers find their way into our homes and act as symbolic messengers for us in the most sensitive situations – when we express love, when we celebrate and when we mourn. In other words, flowers are deeply integrated into our lives. Also, flowers are among the most widely used motifs in art history. Come enjoy a seductive, sensitive and thought-provoking journey through the realm of flora as ARKEN’s exhibition Flowers in Art focuses on the significance of flowers in our lives and in art.

Historical roots and seeds of the future

Flowers have fascinated artists for centuries. Particularly in the nineteenth century, where soulful depictions of the beauty and vitality of flowers were part of the period’s quest to understand the essence of nature and how the world worked. Today, scientists issue dire warnings about biodiversity crises and young people take to the streets for the sake of the climate. All romantic notions of unspoiled nature have been lost, and so the flower motif has found new relevance in art. Contemporary artists rethink the relationship between flower and man in works full of finely attuned sensibilities, humour and critique.

In a fruitful meeting between older and contemporary art, the exhibition shows masterpieces by international and Danish artists, spanning two hundred years and a wide range of styles – from the Danish Golden Age painter J.L. Jensen and Vitalists like Alhed Larsen and Fritz Syberg, to the early French Modernists like Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot onwards to contemporary artists like Melanie Bonajo, Marc Quinn, Petrit Halilaj & Alvaro Urbano.

Flower mania and perspectives on nature

Flowers are present in every corner of our everyday life and consumer culture – from fashion patterns to dinnerware to the branding of cleaning products. The exhibition displays the historical painter J.L. Jensen’s paradisiacal portrayals of flowers side by side with Andy Warhol, whose iconic series of floral prints, Flowers, enters a conversation with the history of flower painting.

Warhol and other pop artists highlight how the flower is used as a lure affecting our consumption habits even as they challenge the hierarchies of art. Through such meetings and exchanges, the exhibition sheds light on how artists have used the flower to explore the various meanings and social conditions associated with Western consumer culture, the flower industry and the outlooks on nature found at different times in history.


I always notice flowers.

– Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1970. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk. Foto: © Poul Buchard / Brøndum & Co

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1908. © National Museum of Wales

Artificial naturalness

Hiking and gardening, nature conservation and landscape architecture: we seek immersion, a sense of presence, optimisation or healing in nature, taking in the vibrant, life-affirming flowers through our senses. At the same time, we are constantly affecting our surroundings, arranging them in accordance with our wants and needs. Art captures and addresses the multiple tensions between care, dominance, conservation and control that infuse man’s relationship with nature.

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies transport us to a corner of the artist’s famous water garden in Giverny, France. Here, the delicate, flowering water lilies appear as fleeting impressions on our retina, reflecting the alluring sensuality of the flower while positing it in a timeless space. Fascinated by flowers, Monet bought in rare species with lavish generosity, using them to carefully stage the garden he repeatedly treated in his paintings. The work conveys a sense of immersion, presence and cultivated nature captured in a brief moment.

Today, many contemporary artists explore the boundaries between the natural and the artificial. Miguel Chevalier’s fluorescent, interactive forest of flowers invites the audience to dance with flowers that change with every movement. Flower, body and technology merge in this algorithm-driven landscape. The flower forest shows us that we are part of the changes seen in the world, raising questions about future hybrids between the technological, the natural and the human.


Gardening was something I learned in my youth when I was unhappy. I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.

– Claude Monet

Love dramas

Flowers are said by some to always bloom for someone – and they have become an important factor in human social life. The exhibition examines the flower as a messenger, symbolically conveying different aspects of our emotional life. The immersive installation The Clearing, created by Swedish artists Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, contains a stop-motion video featuring two temperamental ladies wearing large dresses and excessive makeup, standing on a balcony raised above large, rotating flower sculptures. The ladies live out a drama full of worship, submission and rejection. Slaps and crying turn into comfort, caresses and flirtation, all while the audience moves around flowers dripping with juice. In this work, the flower becomes an image of carnal desires. Several other works featured in the exhibition also examine the significance of flowers in life’s great dramas.


Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, The Clearing (Yellow, Purple and Rosehip Flower), 2015. © Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg; Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photo: Jack Hems

Featured artists

The exhibition presents works by Nanna Abell, Jean Arp, Emilia Bergmark, Camilla Berner, Karl Blossfeldt, Melanie Bonajo, Rune Bosse, Olaf Breuning, Miguel Chevalier, Ismar Cirkinagic, Thomas Demand, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Dankvart Dreyer, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Spencer Finch, Paul Fischer, Emily Gernild, Ori Gersht, Petrit Halilaj & Alvaro Urbano, Johannes Heldén, Hanne Hellesen, Ulrik Heltoft & Miljohn Ruperto, Emil Westman Hertz, Johannes Holbek, Astrid Holm, J.L. Jensen, Kapwani Kiwanga, Hilma af Klint, Eva Koch, Jeff Koons, Alhed Larsen, Johan Thomas Lundbye, Tony Matelli, Ana Mendieta, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edvard Munch, Astrid Noack, O.D. Ottesen, Ahmad Siyar Qasimi, Marc Quinn, Odilon Redon, Théo van Rysselberghe, P.C. Skovgaard, Jan Sluijters, David Stjernholm, Christine Swane, Anna Syberg, Fritz Syberg, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andy Warhol and Kristian Zahrtmann. 

The exhibition is supported by