In Anya Gallaccio’s Preserve Beauty (New York), over five hundred red gerberas are pressed between a sheet of glass and the wall. As time passes the flowers begin to decompose – they wither and shrivel, often falling out of place, or to the floor, gradually rotting, and what begins as fresh and beautiful blooms turn dull and dessicated, covered with grey mould. We can even smell the decomposing flowers.
Preserve Beauty changes continuously during the exhibition – a consequence of organic processes beyond the control of the artist or the viewer. This work’s title plays upon the idea of beauty, and the impossibility of preventing its demise with the passing of time; it also refers to the specific cultivar of gerbera named ‘Red Beauty’, used by the artist to make this piece. Describing her work as ‘theatrical’ Anya Gallaccio doesn’t consider herself as the sole author, but sees the work instead as a temporary collaboration, between herself and the viewer, that asks us to reflect upon ideas of ‘place, time, life, decay, death, beauty and renewal’.
Audio description of Preserve Beauty
Image © Anya Gallaccio. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015. Courtesy the British Council Collection