Sketch Celebrates 200 Years of The National Gallery With Joyous Landmark Floral Exhibition

Design Insider is thrilled to share a truly spectacular event that will surely captivate and inspire our readers: the tenth edition of ‘sketch in Bloom.’ This joyous project, set against the backdrop of sketch’s illustrious history—once the home of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the London atelier of Christian Dior—marks the National Gallery’s 200th anniversary with an immersive floral exhibition that is not to be missed!

From May 1st to 27th, 2024, the iconic Grade II* listed venue will undergo a breath-taking transformation. Its grand neoclassical spaces will be adorned with expansive floral displays and artistic installations inspired by seminal artists from the National Gallery’s prestigious collection. Celebrate the mastery of Alfred Sisley, JMW Turner, and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder as sketch turns its interiors into a vibrant homage to these iconic figures.

sketch in Bloom runs from May 1st to 27th, 2024

Imagine wandering through Sisley-inspired pastoral landscapes, looking up to see a dynamic, Turner-esque floral ceiling, or encountering the ‘Plant Beings’ that bring Bosschaert’s still lives to life in full botanical splendour. With additional delights such as a ‘living portrait’ photo booth echoing Edouard Manet’s muse Eva Gonzalès and bespoke workshops led by the talented Tony Green, a Central Saint Martins-trained artist, this event promises a feast for the senses and a fresh perspective on art and floral design. Join us in celebrating this remarkable confluence of art, history, and botanical beauty at sketch in Bloom.

Reception: Rebel Rebel

From the moment guests step foot in the door, they will be whisked away into a world of blooms and greenery, evocative of The National Gallery’s own arched corridors, adorned with treasures from across the ages. Here in the Entrance Hall and Reception, creative florists Rebel Rebel present their installation. Guiding the eyeline through the stately hall, lined with botanical Liberty print wallpaper, is the image of the iconic Whistlejacket by esteemed equestrian artist Sir George Stubbs, woven into the corridor’s plush carpet underfoot and repeated along the corridor like an Eadweard Muybridge. To the right, 15 exquisite prints showcasing British-inspired paintings, captured by master’s at The National Gallery. To the left, three still life arrangements incorporating ceramics by artisans Annalea Clelia, Dimitris Papailias and Trisha Filor, crafted with blooms in the esteemed tradition of Britain’s Old Masters.

Entrance Hall and Reception showcases work by Rebel Rebel

These arrangements will be created each week, meaning that over the course of the month, different flowers – mostly British, many grown from Rebel Rebel’s own cutting garden in Norfolk – will be presented at their best in the season. The British lilacs, mock orange and lily of the valley will give way to the blowsy ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peonies and cherry blossoms, and then finally to the first garden roses and yellow jasmine.

“We’re delighted to be working with Sketch again and very excited about the theme for this year’s install.  The National Gallery is a testament to Western art, and we get to remake some of its bounty in real flowers, couldn’t be more fun.” Athena Duncan of Rebel Rebel

Left, Reception hallway. Right, Stairway

Rebel Rebel’s reception area installation is also a life-size recreation of Edouard Manet’s portrait of muse and painter Eva Gonzalèscomprising a half-finished canvas of a flower painting, and a chair for the artist.  Enclosing the scene is a very large gold picture frame, suspended from the ceiling, which visitors can step through to become part of the painting. 

The Lecture Room & Library: Lucy Vail Floristry

In the Lecture Room and Library can be found Lucy Vail’s ‘Pastoral Inspiration’. This captivating installation serves as a poignant tribute to ‘the forgotten impressionist’ Alfred Sisley’s influence on English heritage and his love for the British landscape. A reimagining of his painting The Small Meadows in Spring, the centrepiece promises to immerse visitors in the essence of his pastoral landscapes. Sisley’s works are symbolic of the quintessential English landscape, characterised by its lush greenery, tranquil rivers, and idyllic villages.

Lecture Room and Library, Lucy Vail’s ‘Pastoral Inspiration’

Working with resin for the first time, the team at Lucy Vail showcase delicate pressed flowers and foliage, preserved within the resin, creating panels of between one and two metres tall, meticulously arranged in the centre of the room to imitate standing stones and to evoke English stone circles. The rolling hills are echoed in the colourful dried flowers and fresh plants beneath. This enchantingly tranquil centrepiece not only pays homage to Sisley’s artistic legacy but also demonstrates Lucy Vail’s passion for circular floristry and for extending the lifecycle of flowers, as the dried petals featuring in the resin panels have been repurposed from other projects and events, preserved for reuse.

‘Standing stones’ evoke English stone circles

“Participating within Sketch’s Mayfair in Bloom exhibition is a dream come true! We have long admired their celebration of all things flowers and as floral designers it is such a joy to be given a theme  that celebrates two subjects we are incredibly passionate about: art history and the British landscape. As a company we are constantly mixing mediums to create otherworldly, immersive designs, and Sketch actively encourages that by holding the exhibition across a whole month. We love a challenge and are so excited to be given this opportunity to showcase another side of our work!” Lucy Vail

The Glade: JamJar Flowers

JamJar Flowers will create a stunning, dreamlike installation in The Glade, inspired by the drama of light, colour and movement in JMW Turner’s masterpiece Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus, one of the National Gallery’s treasures. Draped across The Glade’s lofty ceiling with intricately knotted ropes and sumptuous textiles, the installation extracts elements and translates them into an ethereal work, incorporating botanical materials including flax fibres, honeysuckle, bog myrtle, bear and elephant grass, reeds, willow, and grasses artfully arranged to form dreamlike drifts echoing the waves and sails from the mythological scene.

JamJar Flowers dreamlike installation, The Glade

For the first time, JamJar is working with fabric installation artist Mia Sylvia, who works with botanical dyes which she makes herself from foraged flowers, food waste like onion skins and avocado pips and spices. Carving out the shape of the base of the piece with large swathes of material, she creates the impression of sails buffeted and billowing by the wind. Airy whips of soft blue-grey limonium will soften the edges of the piece, suggesting clouds merging back into the ravishing decoupage walls. Turner’s inclusion pays tribute to his enduring impact and contributions to this nation’s rich artistic legacy – a vision indeed worthy of celebration.

Melissa creates the impression of sails buffeted and billowing by the wind

Working with Sketch over the past 7 years has been the most creative and enjoyable relationship in our career. We love how we have been allowed to spread the wings of our imagination and encouraged to step far away from conventional floristry on many projects over the years. ..There is nowhere like it and we are delighted to be back to celebrate the glorious month of May at Sketch with our representation of Turner’s painting to celebrate the bicentenary of The National Gallery.” Melissa Richardson of JamJar

The East Bar & Pods: Yan Skates

Finally, award-winning artist and floral designer Yan Skates brings people and paintings together with his ‘Plant Beings’ taking up residency amidst the iconic Pod Loos, in an installation curated by Artistic Statements.

Pod Loos, in an installation curated by Artistic Statements

Taking inspiration from The National Gallery’s A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase by Dutch Master Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, ‘Plant Beings’ are a whimsical celebration of the famous painting – in human form. As if the painting itself has walked off from the canvas – these beings embody the rich colours, the exotic composition, and wild floral combinations of the famous Dutch Masters painting.

Yan Skates brings people and paintings together with his ‘Plant Beings’

At sketch, these same flowers create the shape of a person, so that you become the art, the art is you. These playful characters, let loose from the confines of their frame are at home at sketch – known for its bold championing of quirky ‘Englishness’ and daring contemporary art. And yet, while on the surface a leap from the original painting, they also convey much of its message, including mortality and spirituality. In the human-formed floral arrangements exist important themes of love, loss, food, decay, life, and death.

Human-formed floral articulate important themes of love, loss, food, decay, life, and death

“It has been a dream of mine to create one of my PLANT BEINGS, and to propose for such an innovative space, known for its creativity and playful nature… I am beyond excited about the prospect of working with Sketch on this amazing brief! The overall feel will be natural of course but it won’t be all green and brown. Mankind’s influence will be visible too…just as when you look at a bird’s nest it will have manmade fibre woven in, or how magpies decorate their nests.” Yan Skates

‘sketch in Bloom’ is inspired by the National Gallery’s NG200 initiative, marking two centuries of the institution. By showcasing floral interpretations of iconic artworks within its historic setting, the exhibition aims to immerse audiences in Britain’s rich artistic legacy and celebrate the cultural impact of its most renowned artists. sketch Gallery also aims to engage local communities through daily talks and floral workshops that explore the creative process. Playing its part in the National Gallery’s momentous bicentenary celebrations this spring, this innovative exhibition promises to transport visitors through a world of blooms, uniting people, art, nature, and Britain’s cultural heritage.

Culinary Delights, Creative Workshops, and Aesthetic Enhancements

During the ‘Sketch in Bloom’ exhibition from May 1st to 27th, guests can enjoy special afternoon teas. Options include the Sketch in Bloom afternoon tea with a glass of Balfour English Sparkling or Pommery Champagne for £110 per person, or the Mayfair in Bloom afternoon tea for £95 per person.

The Executive Chef of the Lecture Room and Library at Sketch will offer a 3 Michelin Star lunch menu priced at £140 per person on weekdays and £150 on weekends throughout the exhibition period.

In collaboration with Fettercairn Whisky and Champagne Pommery, Sketch’s Director of Operations Alena Cagnato and her team have created four unique cocktails, available at the bars during the event.

A key activity in the NG200 programme is the ‘Art Road Trip’, encouraging the community to engage with the National Gallery’s collection through a series of workshops. sketch will hold workshops which are set to captivate attendees at the upcoming Flower Show, both drawing inspiration from the florals and artwork from around the building. On 13 May, a Floral Tote Bag Workshop will be led by Tony Green, a central Saint Martins-trained artist, in which participants can design and style a floral tote bag taking inspiration from Rebel Rebel Flower arrangements. A further floral arrangement workshop in May will involve Yan Skates working with guests to create bespoke arrangements, alongside discussing his artistic process for creating the Plant Beings.

The creative workshops program returns to the Parlour, featuring activities like flower arranging and revamping old clothing, led by artists such as Tony Green, Rosemary Cronin, Yan Skates, and Rebel Rebel. Workshops are priced at £20 per person, with tickets available on the Sketch website.

During the exhibition the ambiance is enhanced by music specially curated by Sketch’s Music Director, Mathieu Massadian. Each installation will be accompanied by unique playlists that resonate with the themes and aesthetics of the floral displays.

Adding to the thematic experience, Sonia Taouhid, Sketch’s dress designer, has crafted new seasonal staff uniforms. These uniforms will feature fresh floral patterns inspired by the exhibition’s abundant blossoms, visually connecting the staff’s attire to the immersive environment of ‘Sketch in Bloom’.

Photography by Mark Cocksedge


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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