Photo: brooklyn museum
At the new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, visitors are urged to take a flower and give it to a stranger. How simple and touching a gesture in these complex times.
The art work consists of a 45 foot long piece of granite with one hundred fresh flowers that look like they are growing out of it. By the end of the day, all the flowers resting beside the channel will have disappeared.
Created by a New York artist Lee Mingwei, the piece is about sharing and giving and the good feelings that these actions engender.
The Taiwanese artist was inspired by reading the book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by Lewis Hyde. This book is about the role gifts have played in our emotional and spiritual life. By gifts,the author means both material and immaterial objects.
He was also touched by seeing hundreds of flowers floating down a river in Lyon. The piece has already been shown at the Lyon Biennale in 2009 and now it is making its debut in New York, a city that needs some sharing and caring these days.
He calls it 'social conceptualism'. Mingwei creates events that bring strangers together in simple, everyday rituals such as eating, sleeping, writing letters and talking to each other. His first project in 1997 involved getting people at Yale University to eat alone with him at his studio. In these days of pop-up and secret restaurants, this sounds remarkably prescient.
Another work was The Mending Project in 2009. In this one, visitors are asked to bring items of clothing that need mending and sit with the artist while he darns the pieces. He doesn't hide the rips, instead he embroiders all around them and makes them a focal point. It's a way of celebrating the old, rather than the throw-away culture of new.
In Queensland, New Zealand, he re-created the famous painting Guernica by Picasso in sand over a ten day period. On day 5, he destroyed it by sweeping the sand, using a bamboo broom, to create a new work that was completely abstract. This one was a statement about destruction and creation.