Artist & Work

  • SOCIAL FACTORY
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Willem de Rooij

Born in 1969, lives and works in Amsterdam



Willem de Rooij began working on the Bouquet series – a group of floral sculptures – in 2002, then in collaboration with Jeroen de Rijke (1970–2006). Since then he has created 11 Bouquets, three of which will be presented at the Shanghai Biennale. Across various human cultures, bouquets of flowers are charged with a range of meanings with regard to different events and contexts. Placed within the museum as a work of art, the fleeting, temporal nature of flowers is emphasized, as well as their nature as complex social signs. Our attention is hence directed not only to the signs’ meaning, but also to the wider process of signifying. In this context, the bouquet becomes a means to enact the cultural role of the museum: as a place where meaning is negotiated. Museums house a surplus of signs, inevitably more than any single individual is able to grasp.


Some of de Rooij’s Bouquets have clear social or political connotations; others have merely formal ones. What they all have in common, though, is that like a play or film, if not reconstructed, they exist only as an idea. Furthermore, all works are collaborations with a florist responsible for works’ execution and maintenance during the exhibition period.


Bouquet IV (2005) consists of a flower arrangement and a framed black and white photograph depicting the work in its actual size. The colors of Bouquet IV, when reproduced in monochrome, are all reduced to a standardized, mid-gray. It is a work about the mainstream, the middle, without extremes of blacks or whites. Bouquet V (2010), meanwhile, consists of 95 different flowers, each occurring just once in the elaborate arrangement of various sizes, colors and textures. The work touches on concepts of diversity, and the tension between the individual and the collective. Finally, Bouquet IX (2012) is made up of ten different species of flower, all of which are white. Encapsulating ideas of sameness and difference, the work is above all about the multiple meanings attributed to “whiteness”.