The garden as a place of hope and resilience

In this age of climate crisis, the relationship between man and nature is under tremendous strain.
More and more artists are shifting their focus to the garden. Raising critical questions about the way nature is being subdued and exploited, they call for a radical reshaping of our relationship with nature. 

It is time for a botanical revolution!

Already in the 1970s, Tetsumi Kudo warned us against the calamitous effects of mankind on nature.

Yet with this grim garden of plastic waste, he offers a glimmer of hope in these dark days. Kudo grafted plastic flowers and plants onto aluminium trunks.

Grafting is a technique that involves attaching part of a plant to the trunk or stem of a different plant. This makes the plant more resilient to disease or challenging conditions.

Tetsumi Kudo, Grafted Garden, 1971 


Henk Wildschut photographed the improvised gardens of people who have lost their homes and ended up in refugee camps.

Gardening and seeing flowers blossom can offer solace, even when hope seems far away. 

Henk Wildschut, Rooted, Zaatari Camp, Jordan-April-2018


Elspeth Diederix Miracle2 #01 kopie.jpg

This scene’s baroque lighting gives it an intangible quality. It looks as if nature itself has been manipulated here – or is it just the photograph that has been doctored?

Elspeth Diederix created this flower portrait in the Miracle Garden, her public flower garden and atelier in Amsterdam.

Elspeth Diederix, Miracle2 #01, 2021

Seeds of Change

Over the past year, many of us rediscovered our gardens. The vegetable garden proved to be the ultimate lockdown project – even the scant few square feet of our balconies offered some solace. In our gardens, we took comfort and hope from nature.

Maria Thereza Alves shows how “typically Dutch” flowers and plants actually found their way to our country via colonial trade routes.

Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: A Ballast Flora Garden, 2021.

The subject of this piece by Patricia Kaersenhout is how the botanical knowledge of Surinamese women was appropriated by Western scientists.

Patricia Kaersenhout, Of Palimpsest & Erasure, 2021


South-African artist Lungiswa Gqunta presents a lawn as a dangerous landscape made up of glass shards, literally forming a sharp contrast with the concept of the garden as a place for rest and enjoyment. In the South African townships, almost nobody owns a lawn: having a garden is a sign of wealth and privilege.

Lungiswa Gqunta, Lawn 1 (detail) 2016/17

The concept of the garden as a microcosm, a mirror of the world, has a very long history. Many cultures and religions see gardens as harmonious, secluded places of refuge.

Take the Garden of Eden, for example: the first paradise.

The Botanical Revolution reveals the similarities between past and present and explains the views of contemporary art on gardens and nature.

Herman Justus Kruyder, Het Paradijs, 1914

Practical information

The botanical revolution

On the necessity of art and gardening

Gardens have appealed to our imagination for centuries. We associate them with harmonious bliss, a place to witness the cycle of life and death, a place of contemplation, and a refuge from the worries and cares of daily life. And certainly in these times of being cooped up at home, there is a strong desire to have one’s own bit of greenery.

The botanical revolution, on the necessity of art and gardening is the story of the garden as a fertile source of inspiration for artists. Throughout the centuries, artists, writers, poets and philosophers have described, depicted and defined the garden in constantly changing ways. Gerrit Komrij – whose 1990 Huizinga lecture is the source of the exhibition title – described how, for much of history, the idea of the garden was closely interrelated with changing mentalities and intellectual controversies. Gardens remain a rich source of inspiration for contemporary art, though the prevailing theme is no longer romantic longing but a call to reshape our relationship with the earth. How do today’s artists reflect on themes such as primeval paradise, vegetable gardens, botany and climate change? Surprising classic and modern examples reveal the deep roots of the exhibition’s themes.

Photo: Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide) The Garden, 2014, film, 56’

Media guide
In the media guide, cultural journalist Yuki Kho and film director and environmentalist Safi Graauw tell stories about their favourite pieces in the exhibition based on their knowledge, personal experience and artistic admiration . The guide also invites you to spend extra time with a number of specific pieces. During these extended stops, you can participate in visual meditations by artist Adelijn van Huis or listen to stories by artist Joan Kuhlman.

The media guide can be accessed directly from your smartphone. You do not need to download anything: simply scan a QR code in the museum to open the media guide. We recommend bringing your own set of headphones.

Fringe programme
Please see the Programme of Events for an overview of all activities organised in relation to the exhibition. Note: All events are in Dutch

Publicatie on the necessity of gardening

On the Necessity of Gardening; An ABC on Art, Botany and Cultivation is a lavishly illustrated publication produced in collaboration with publisher Valiz. This abecedarium presents the cultural-historical tradition of gardens and artist’s gardens, as well as concepts such as the Anthropocene.
With contributions by: Maria Barnas, Jonny Bruce, Laurie Cluitmans, Liesbeth M. Helmus, Erik de Jong, René de Kam, Alhena Katsof, Jamaica Kincaid, Bart Rutten, Catriona Sandilands, and Patricia de Vries. The publication design is by Bart de Baets.

Derk Alberts, Maria Thereza Alves, Yael Bartana, Jurgen Bey, Juliette Blightman, Abraham Bloemaert, Johannes Bosschaert, Ambrosius Bosschaert de Jonge, Andrea Büttner, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide), CPR (Charlotte Rooijackers), Meester van Delft, Jeremy Deller, Elspeth Diederix, Stan Douglas, Albrecht Dürer, Cecile Espinasse, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Vincent van Gogh, Lungiswa Gqunta, Hendrick Goltzius, Rumiko Hagiwara, Saskia Noor van Imhoff, Patricia Kaersenhout, Tetsumi Kudo, Herman Justus Kruyder, Jort van der Laan, Hans van Lunteren & Ienke Kastelein, Kerry James Marshall, meester van Paulus en Barnabas, Maria Sibylla Merian, Maria Pask, Otto van Rees, Willem de Rooij, Roelant Saverij, Jennifer Tee, Henk Wildschut.

Nest art space

Nest art space
Parallel to the exhibition in the Centraal Museum, the exhibition Is it possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers? can be seen in Nest art space in The Hague. The artists
in this eponymous exhibition answer this question with a clear yes! They depart from their own artistic perspective, but find each other in feminist affinities, queer desires and ecological solidarity. Featuring work by Mehraneh Atashi, Rossella Biscotti, Milena Bonilla, Anne Geene, Philipp Gufler, Gluklya, Camille Henrot, Patricia Kaersenhout, Otobong Nkanga, Ruchama Noorda, Maria Pask, CPR (Charlotte Rooijackers) and Lily van der Stokker. This exhibition is curated by Heske ten Cate, artistic director Nest, Eva Burgering, assistant curator and Laurie Cluitmans,
curator Centraal Museum.

Etching workshop and walk

Etching workshop and walking tour
The duties of municipal gardeners mostly consist of weeding out the plants that today’s greenery management policies label as undesirable. But should we really be removing these plants? And do we really want to live in cities where greenery is controlled according to extremely rigid rules? Or would we prefer to leave more room for nature and the knowledge and wishes of the gardeners who manage our cities’ green spaces? What is the secret value of the plants that are written off as “weeds” and barred from the urban environment?

Take a walk with a member of the municipal greenery department and discover the plants that grow in the area around the museum, collecting so-called weeds which you will then use to create etchings during the workshop. The workshop will be held in the Tuinzaal under the direction of artists Cécile Espinasse and Sixtine Blandin. Please note that the workshop is in English, while the walk is in Dutch.

Cécile Espinasse
Cécile leads this project, having done an internship of sorts as artist in residence with a municipal greenery management team in the spring of 2021. She also developed the presentation on display in the construction trailer in the museum garden. This presentation was specially created for the exhibition The botanical revolution. On the necessity of art and gardening.

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Studio FormaFantasma


  • De botanische revolutie : over noodzaak van kunst en tuinieren, Sarah van Binsbergen, (De Volkskrant, 17 september 2021), V 11
  • Het gras is altijd groener : Lungiswa Gqunta, Laurie Cluitmans, (Metropolis M, 6, dec/jan 2021/2022), pp. 78-83
  • Is it possible to be a revolutionary and like flowers? [Een tentoonstelling bij Nest, 10.9-19.12-2021], Laurie Cluitmans, Heske ten Cate, Eva Burgering ... [et al.], (Metropolis M, 5, sep/okt 2021), losse bijlage, 78 p.

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