Welcome to the age of the Botanical Revolution

An exhibition at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht

02.12.2021  |  by Cato Verhoeven  |  Choose Your Story

The garden has played a big role in our society for ages. From the Biblical Garden of Eden to the balcony gardens we’ve been maintaining during the pandemic. But what role does the garden play in our society? Is it purely decorative, or purely functional?

The Botanical Revolution investigates these questions in an exhibition of four rooms and a museum garden. Additionally there is a booklet, an audio tour and a separate podcast.

Laurie Cluitmans

It all started in 2016 with Laurie Cluitmans. Laurie is curator of contemporary art at the Centraal Museum and curated the exhibition ‘The Botanical Revolution’. In 2016 she wrote an essay about the garden of Derek Jarman. With this, she won the Prize for Young Art Critics. The year after, she became the Mondriaan research fellow at CCS Bard in New York. Her research here is what led to the exhibition ‘The Botanical Revolution’.

Laurie Cluitmans by Kevin Kwee

The art

Laurie: “The exhibition consists of four rooms. In each room we bring together new commissions and existing works, sometimes from our own collection, sometimes on loan from other museums. The installation ‘Grafted Garden’ by Tetsumi Kudo from 1971, for example, is on loan from the Centre Pompidou. In the 70s, Kudo already warned about how mankind was treating nature. With his installation, he suggests a human-nature hybrid. It’s both grim and hopeful at the same time.”

Grafted Garden by Tetsumi Kudo

Like chapters

“The rooms are like chapters. And each chapter centers on another relation between nature and culture as expressed in the garden.”

A layered experience

“An exhibition like this is always made with a big team and together with the artists and owners of the artworks. Together, we look at what the exhibition needs and how to share that with a wide audience. It is quite a layered process. We created a media guide for example to experience the exhibition through someone else’s interpretation and created a podcast in which several guests talk more in depth about each chapter.”

The first room: Paradise

The seasons enter the museum’s programming

“In June artist Maria Thereza Alves created a Ballast garden, on the square next to the museum. The garden unfortunately couldn’t stay until the end of the exhibition, as we have to follow the seasons. Perhaps one lesson from the exhibition, that we cannot force nature but have to work together. I think it’s quite beautiful.”

“The project has been a long time in the making and it’s great to see years of research and conversations come together during the assembly, that is wonderful! There’s the planned relations, but of course also surprises of other – unplanned - mutual relations. Like how the tulips of Jennifer Tee’s tulip collages matched perfectly to Saverij’s flower still lifes but also to the flowers in Kudo’s installations. Things like that are small gifts.”

The Botanical Revolution is open for visitors until January 9, 2022.

About the Author

Cato Verhoeven