“Having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own,” said Andy Warhol, who is celebrated more for his influential pop art than his conservation efforts. But don’t discount his love of nature, says Jennifer Rominiecki, the president and CEO of Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which has transformed into a Technicolor floral playground for the exhibition Warhol: Flowers in the Factory (February 11–June 30).
The show documents Warhol’s surprising affection for the natural world, including his preservation efforts in Montauk, New York—the bulk of his Long Island compound is now owned by the Nature Conservancy. It also presents personal photographs, such as a series of the artist in a field of sunflowers. Four of Warhol’s silk screens of hibiscuses—created between the Campbell’s soup cans and the Marilyn Monroes—are also on display.
In homage, mass plantings of hibiscuses and sunflowers bloom across the grounds, and the conservatory will be filled with bromeliads. The property is the world’s only botanical garden dedicated to epiphytes—the tentacled air plants that grow in trees, including orchids and bromeliads.
While planting the exhibition, the gardeners realized something funny about one prized species. “Tillandsia tectorum is a white and fuzzy air plant,” Rominiecki says. “At a quick glance, it evokes Warhol’s unmistakable hair.”