Idea?

Fondation Beyeler, Basel

Aquatic plants fit for an art gallery

Have you ever been to the Fondation Beyeler? You can always count on this art museum to offer up exhibitions that delight and amaze. But even by its usual standards, “Life” by Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Eliasson in spring 2021 was truly spectacular. The glass front on the building was removed, so that the waterlily pond that normally adorns the park of the Fondation Beyeler flowed into the museum space. Where one of Monet’s famous waterlily paintings once hung, real aquatic plants now flourished in bright green water. Visitors moved around the flooded spaces on walkways.

Real plants in bright green water where Claude Monet’s waterlilies would otherwise have been.

Which aquatic plants would work?

Hydroplant played a major part in making the artist’s incredible vision a reality. Hydroplant was tasked with planning and executing the complex project in conjunction with the renowned VOGT Case Studio. To do this, they evaluated and selected a wide variety of pond plants suitable for different depths of water. “The water is only 8 cm deep in the museum rooms, so floating and shore plants were the only option. We had different species of floating fern, for instance, along with floating spurge and frogbit,” explains Samuel Bulgarelli, Project Manager at Hydroplant. “Ensuring the availability of these plants so early in the year, despite the cold weather, was also a challenge.”

Due to the shallowness of the water within the museum space, floating and shore plants were the only option.

A crate full of waterlilies shortly before their big appearance as part of the exhibition.

One truck, 10 pallets: some 35,000 plants were delivered in total.

Floating spurge creates a spectacular display of colors and shapes.

An exhibition that morphs and lives

Hydroplant provided a total of 35,000 plants – 750 of which were waterlilies – and 30 kg of duckweed to plant the areas of water in and around the museum. «As it was too dark inside, we also supplied the museum with appropriate plant lighting,» says Bulgarelli. One interesting feature of this lavish exhibition was that Ólafur Eliasson was keen for plants that had already died to be part of his spectacle, too. «For us, this meant that we only had to do one round of replanting during the exhibition, to compensate for the lack of plant growth due to the extreme cold. The artist’s concept was for the installation to develop and change. In other words, it was meant to live.»

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  • Planting as part of an art exhibition
  • Feasibility study, review of planting and availability, planting, monitoring the exhibition
  • 35,000 aquatic plants, including waterlilies, water lettuce, duckweed, floating fern, floating spurge and frogbit

We can turn greenery into a work of art for you, too.

Get in touch with Samuel Bulgarelli for a no-obligation chat.