Flower Power

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Nuclear fuel arrangement Bushehr Nuclear Plant, Iran, February 27, 2005.

American artist Taryn Simon became fascinated by the constant presence of flowers at the most important moments of history. Her 2016 show Paperwork and the Will of Capital, was an exhibition of 36 large-scale photographs of floral bouquets, alongside a dozen sculptures of concrete plinths with flower pressings, of arrangements that were witness of the greatest power deals. One floral arrangement in an expressionless photo of Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain, taken at the 1938 Munich conference, first caught her attention. Simon told The Guardian: the banality of the gathering just seemed perfectly encapsulated in the flowers, which were in a shallow bowl in the middle of a coffee table.

Working with a botanist, Simon began to piece together the floral components of arrangements – from the roughly arranged palm fronds made for a 2000 agreement between Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, to the pile of pink lilies present the day a Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons treaty was signed between Russia, Ukraine, the US and the UK in 1994. She sourced her bouquets from the famous Aalsmeer Flower Auction in the Netherlands, where 20m flowers are sold each week.

Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain, at the 1938 Munich conference.


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