The Making of Fresh Flowers: As David Hockney's Fresh Flowers: Drawings on iPhones and iPads Prepares for Its North American Debut at the ROM's Institute for Contemporary Culture on October 8, Exhibition Curator Charlie Scheips Takes Us Behind the Scenes to Show How This Project Came to Be
Scheips, Charlie, ROM Magazine
On a visit to Paris in the spring of 2005, I had the good fortune of being invited with David Hockney and a few others for lunch with Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent at their famous apartment on the rue Babylone. During lunch, Mr. Berge told me that their foundation, housed in the former Yves Saint Laurent headquarters on the Avenue Marceau, would soon be mounting exhibitions. He mentioned how much both he and Saint Laurent would love to mount a show of Hockney's work.
Over the next couple of years, we came up with several ideas for a Hockney exhibition, but each of the concepts was eventually abandoned for one reason or another. Then, after Saint Laurent's death in 2008, the Fondation Pierre Berge/Yves Saint Laurent expressed renewed interest in the project. Whenever I was in Paris, I would go there for meetings as we struggled to think of an appropriate show for the venue. But we were stymied by relatively small gallery space and the fact that, like most artists, Hockney was more interested in his current work than in retrospectives.
The following May, 2009, I visited Hockney in Bridlington where he was busy painting Yorkshire landscapes. By this time, he had also created more than 100 iPhone drawings that he had sent me and a few dozen others of his friends and family each morning by e-mail. One night at dinner, the iPhone work suddenly became the obvious focus for the show--it was Hockney's most recent work and had a place within the larger context of his oeuvre and in the history of his playing with technology and reproduction. I suggested offering the iPhone work to the Fondation as a possible exhibition idea. Hockney was enthusiastic and told me to propose it "and see what Pierre has to say." Hockney's studio assistant, Jean Pierre de Goncalves de Lima, liked the idea, too. He had already collected the iPhone work in a bound book he'd entitled "Fresh Flowers: The Bridlington Home Deliviary Company." I liked the name and liked it even more in French--Fleurs fratches.
Over the weekend before my meeting with the Fondation, I prepared a presentation for Mr. Berge--even going so far as to have Hockney e-mail me an iPhone drawing of the words in French, done in his hand. When I presented the idea to Berge a few days later he was thrilled. It would be the first showing of this body of work to the world. He gave me the "go ahead" to figure out how we could present such tiny works in a gallery setting.
After I returned to America in August, my good friend Ali Tayar, an architect and furniture designer, invited me out to Fire Island near Long Island, New York, for a weekend. I told him about the exhibition concept and he was immediately captivated. We spent that whole weekend sketching out plans of how one could mount the miniscule works for a large audience. …