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Spring/Summer 2020

Almost every culture, past and present, have some sort of ritual to celebrate the promise of spring and new beginnings. In the visual vocabulary, blooming blossoms and flowering buds often signify the end to dark winters and the beginning of new and fresh days to come. Using flowers as a subject or material has been commonplace for artists and creatives for centuries.


“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment”, Georgia O’Keeffe


The hippy flower children in the 1960s and 1970s protested and demonstrated their power softly and passively in the manner of their hero Gandhi (the Babaji of Indian independence). This exhibition is also about that sort of resistance and power and at the same time about the Sufi power of love. Love is the subtext of all life and understanding.


The exhibition coincides with the celebration of the Persian new year, otherwise known as NOW ROUZ, a non-religious celebration.

The exhibition features an array of works, embodying both the stylistic elements and socio-political spirit, including artworks by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Alessandro Twombly, Jean-Claude Carrière, Mikhalis Makroulakis, Fereydoun Ave, Shaqayeq Arabi, Parvaneh Etemadi, Ali Golestaneh, Robert Jacob, Rana Javadi, Shahla Hosseini Barzi, Houda Khalladi, Mohseni Kermanshahi, Leyly Matine-Daftary, Malekeh Nayiny, Sara Dehghan, Sale Sharifi, Salim Karimi, Zabiholla Mohamadi, Mansour Rafie, Vahid Sharifian, Fereshteh Setayesh, Mariam Ketiat, Steven Gifford.


The exhibition also includes a soundscape by Bijan Hazrat and a screening of "Taking Off”, a film by Milos Forman and Jean-Claude Carrière.


In the course of two or three years, the flower believed it had seized power in the United States of America. It claimed that it was above arms and violence and was going to reign over the world.

In March 1968, I joined Milos Forman in New York. His wish was to make a film on this new youth movement called “Hippy” and the new era that lay ahead.

We set ourselves up at the Chelsea Hotel, the undisputed centre of the “counter-culture”. The contraceptive pill had been openly sold for a year and 1967 had already experienced a “summer love”. The entire youth, united against the Vietnam war, seemed to be under the influence of “flower power”. Flowers were everywhere, over faces, on girls’ dresses and in the prairies of Central Park, where, on a Sunday, we found ourselves amongst crowds singing and dreaming under the light of marijuana.


“Peace and love” was their motto.

Some went to work on roller skates, girls got naked to have their bodies painted over in any fashion. This was called “body painting”. On the streets, strangers jumped in your face to give you a kiss.

Most of them dreamed of new artistic forms that they named “psychedelic”, a word whose meaning has always escaped me.

Born in San Francisco, the movement reached Chicago and New York. St. Mark’s Place, in the East Village, was its centre; today, a street like any other. Following diverse incidents, all rather tragic, returning to Europe, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact Troops in August – Milos, in September, decided to return to New York. He was supported by Claude Berri who had named Jean-Pierre Rassam as executive producer.

I accompanied Milos on the trip. We settled in the East Village and immersed ourselves in the “flower world”. We hung out with those whom the conservatives (square people) called “freaks”. We received them at our place, knowing the likes of Janis Joplin who would even come to visit and talk – using slang which took us some time to comprehend since flowers don’t talk like us. In fact, certain scenes from the film which got to be titled “Taking Off” had to be given subtitles later in London.


A strange hope was there, right under our eyes. Would it lift and transform the planet?


Very rapidly, all were abandoned. The war in Vietnam continued. Janis Joplin and other stars died victims of drug overdoses. Flowers withered, and old habits rapidly returned. “Taking Off” was the only film based on this ephemeral power, on this insane hope which was rapidly dashed. It was made on the spot in 1970 and with quite a modest budget.


Today, it remains the only filmed testimony of the passage of a flowery dream among young Americans whom I had the chance to get to know and love. Nowadays, when adult Americans watch a film (something quite rare), it makes them laugh a lot. They laugh at their youthful days. That’s at least something.

Press coverage of the exhibition on Gulf News

Press coverage of the exhibition on Gulf Today

Virtual tour of Flower Power/A New Day Exhibition

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