The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY
first solo presentation of Kahlo’s work in New York City in more than 25 years, and the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Kahlo’s intense interest in the botanical world. Featuring more than a dozen original Kahlo paintings and works on paper, this six-month engagement also reimagines the iconic artist’s famed garden and studio at the Casa Azul, her lifelong home in Mexico City.
pictured: Frida Kahlo. Self-Portrait with Monkeys. 1943.
This Garden-wide exhibition celebrates early 20th-century America’s most influential women in landscape architecture and design as well as garden photography. Experience Mrs. Rockefeller’s Garden in the Haupt Conservatory—an exquisite evocation of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Maine—and through the many exhibition components offered that embrace poetry, music, and photography, discover the innovative work and significant contributions of these women to American history and culture.
Went this weekend and it is worth checking out.
Mrs. Rockefeller’s Garden (exhibit above, photos via NYBG) was designed by Beatrix Farrand, a well known landscape architect and the niece of novelist Edith Wharton.
Not far north of the concrete and steel of Manhattan, there is a living, growing tropical rain forest, a dry cactus-filled desert, a cool and misty cloud forest, and a mercurial landscape that changes from a Renaissance garden to a Japanese autumn garden to a woodland glade full of spring flowers to a village animated by garden scale trains, and into yet other gardens with each change of the seasons. All of these plant worlds are found within one structure: the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
The Conservatory is a grand Victorian-style crystal palace made up of eleven interconnected glasshouse galleries, which are arranged in a symmetrical, rectilinear “C” shape around two elegant pools. The centerpiece is a magnificent glass dome that features a collection of the world’s palms under glass. The other ten glasshouse galleries are arranged in pairs on either side of the Palms of the World Gallery, each one displaying a different natural habitat and offering visitors an environmental tour around the world.
These displays of plant life are set inside one of the most extraordinary historic glass structures in the world. In the early days of the Garden, at the end of the nineteenth century, the founders were inspired to re-create in America the experience of the great glasshouses of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The founding director of the New York Botanical Garden, Nathaniel Lord Britton, and his wife, Elizabeth, who were enthralled with the glass Palm House at Kew, were successful in garnering enough financial support to build such an architectural gem in New York. The preeminent American glasshouse firm of the time, Lord & Burnham, was hired to design the Garden’s own crystal palace. Although Lord & Burnham designed a number of important conservatories during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, none can compare with their glasshouse for the New York Botanical Garden.
At the time of the Conservatory’s completion in 1902, the exotic plants were displayed in a style popular during that era. That is, the individual specimen plants were each grown in pots that were arranged throughout the glass galleries according to botanical relationships, so that closely related plants were displayed next to each other, regardless of their provenance, habitat, or place of origin. The Victorians were excited to view the myriad curiosities of exotic plants and to understand their relationship to one another in a systematic way; they were less concerned with how the plants fit into a larger ecosystem or habitat biology; indeed, the field of ecology did not formally exist at that time. All of the tropical and subtropical plant collections were rare treasures from far-flung parts of the globe.
More than 110 years later, the Conservatory still contains rare treasures, but the shape of the collections has changed dramatically. As part of the significant restoration in 1997, an examination of the plant collections and how they were displayed led to new and exciting ideas about how the mysterious and dramatic world of tropical and subtropical plants could be better brought to life for the education and enjoyment of visitors. The work of exhibition designer Jon Coe, along with Garden staff and other consultants, created a new approach in the exhibition of the plants. Today all Conservatory horticulture, often recognized as the world’s most beautiful, is under the direction of gifted horticulturist Francisca Coelho.
The Conservatory’s eleven glasshouse galleries are now designed to offer an in depth experience of a series of tropical plant habitats and living collections. Diverse natural habitats of tropical rain forests and American and African deserts complement collections of tropical palms, aquatic and climbing plants, and special collections of carnivorous plants and hanging baskets. Two galleries are devoted to changing seasonal exhibitions of horticultural interest. All exhibitions are interpreted with informative signs, audio guides, and publications. This delightful array of educational and ever-changing exhibitions offers visitors, teachers, school groups, specialists, artists, gardeners, and researchers a rich experience of the tropical plant world on every visit to the Conservatory.
For more information on The New York Botanical Garden: Revised and Updated Edition, click here.
We’re expecting our Azalea Garden to look like a rainbow brought to earth for at least a couple more weeks. The weather’s pretty perfect for it, so if you happen to be stopping by, you miiiiight wanna head over there. —MN