Beautiful decay

Anya Gallaccio, Beauty, 1991-2003

Flowers have a long history in art, not least in the history of pretty but clichéd painting. The flowers in Anya Gallaccio’s work aren’t painted though, nor sculpted. They are real, presented in panels and not altered – or, crucially, preserved – in any way.

The flowers behave as flowers do. They start to die. They decay, The go moldy and they start to drip down the walls. Lovely. Actually, in a way it is, but there is an ugliness to the whole thing. And a smell.

On one level, this is art for the living room wall. A home full of flowers is always nice, after all. But the pleasure would be short lived as the flowers started to drip onto the carpet. And the need to replace them at predetermined intervals would soon become tiresome. But in a gallery, where someone else is responsible for cleaning, there is a certain fascination in seeing the work at different times in the flowers’ life cycle.

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