North American Debut of David Hockney’s Fresh Flowers

Exhibition Illustrates Technology’s Impact on Visual Culture

The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the ROM presents David Hockney’s Fresh Flowers: Drawings on iPhones and iPads, an exhibition that reveals the artist’s extraordinary use of this novel new artistic medium and its impact on shaping visual culture today. Originally presented by the Fondation Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, this ICC presentation is the exhibition’s North American debut and marks Hockney’s first major show in Canada in over two decades. Curated by Charlie Scheips and engineered by architect Ali Tayar, the presentation of Fresh Flowers will be custom-designed for the Roloff Beny Gallery in the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, in collaboration with David Hockney. It will be on view from October 8, 2011 to January 1, 2012.

The exhibition features approximately 100 iPhone drawings displayed on 20 iPod Touches, as well as an additional 100 iPad drawings on 20 iPads. More than 20 Hockney drawings in the exhibition will feature playback animations, allowing viewers insight into the artist’s creative process as one views the works being drawn from start to finish. Fresh Flowers will also feature two films featuring Hockney working on an iPad, eight large-scale animated projections of recent iPad drawings, and a nine-minute triptych slide show with an additional 169 images.

“Technology has played a major role in how we receive and interpret culture. Fresh Flowers provides the ROM an important opportunity to examine its influence on art and design,” says Janet Carding, Director and CEO of the Museum. “David Hockney’s career, particularly in the last twenty years, has often explored the connections between visual art and its means of creation, often how new technology has had an impact on it. It is an honour to welcome David Hockney’s work back to Canada—and to the ROM for the first time. This exhibition is fascinating in a museum setting - how technology influences the way we receive, interpret and share ideas is at the heart of the show.”

Exhibition Background

In 2008, soon after getting his first iPhone, Hockney discovered the Brushes application as well as other apps enabling him to produce works of extraordinary variety. In his early iPhone work, Hockney used his thumb and fingers to create images directly on the device’s screen—modifying colour and hue and layering brushstrokes of various width and opacity. After the introduction of the iPad in April 2010, Hockney developed a more complex and diverse oeuvre thanks to the tablet’s larger size and the introduction of a stylus. To date, he has created nearly 1,000 images on his iPhone and iPad ranging in subject matter from flowers and plants, portraiture to landscapes and still lifes.

“I was aware immediately when I started drawing on the iPhone that it was not only a new medium but also a very new way to distribute pictures,” says Hockney. “I have always been an advocate of drawing. I always thought the teaching of drawing was the teaching of looking - very good for everybody! I joked about it - who would have thought the telephone could bring back drawing? One quickly realizes that it is a luminous medium and very good for luminous subjects. I began to draw the sunrise seen from my bed on the east coast of England. The iPhone was by my bed; it contained every thing you needed; no mess; so you didn’t even have to clean up. I wouldn’t have drawn the sunrise with just a pencil and a piece of paper. It was the luminosity of the screen that connected me to it.”

“This exhibition is novel in that until we worked out how to present this large body of work to the public, one could only view individual drawings sequentially on one’s own iPhone or iPad,” says curator Charlie Scheips. “Conceived before the iPad was even introduced, in the nearly three years that Hockney had been making these drawings on Apple devices, it is now an important body of work that has informed the artist’s painting and drawing practice, allowing him to use the spontaneity and convenience of the medium to the large scale paintings of the Yorkshire landscape that has been his major interest during the past decade.”

Exhibition Origins

In the summer of 2009, Pierre Bergé, co-founder of the Fondation Pierre Bergé/ Yves Saint Laurent approved a plan by Scheips to mount an exhibition of Hockney’s iPhone drawings in the galleries of the Fondation in Paris, France. The original title for the Paris exhibition, Fleurs fraîches, was inspired not only by the frequent subject matter of Hockney’s early drawings on the iPhone but also as a metaphor for the novel way in which he is able to inject new drawings into exhibitions via email, while being viewed in galleries around the world.

Exhibition Design

In designing the exhibition, architect Ali Tayar drew inspiration from the artist’s studio in Yorkshire, England. The mounts for both the iTouch and iPad devices are designed using oak-lined panels of MDF fiberboard. A banquette platform where visitors may sit to view the triptych slide show is made of the same material and has been custom designed for each of the exhibition’s venues.

Speaking about the exhibition design, Tayar commented, “the humble materials of the armatures play down the Apple hi-tech aesthetic, while simultaneously focusing the viewer’s attention on David’s work. Each venue has allowed us to re-imagine the presentation of Hockney’s digital images. The soaring space of the ROM gallery provides a unique opportunity to show a larger number of the drawings as projections.”

Additional Information and Programming

Fresh Flowers marks the ROM’s first WiFi accessible exhibition, so visitors can share their experience online, in real time. The exhibition includes a 56 page catalogue titled David Hockney: Fleurs Fraiches, featuring an essay by Hockney on his works on the iPhone and iPad, created for the exhibition in Paris and available at the ROM Museum Store. The catalogue texts are in both French and English.

A series of public events will accompany the exhibition. Details will be announced shortly.

About David Hockney

For over five decades David Hockney has created some of the most memorable works of painting, printmaking, photography and opera set design. Born in Bradford, England in 1937, he received the gold medal for his year at London’s Royal College of Art in 1962. The artist had his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the age of 26 and, by 1970, the first of several major retrospectives was organized. At the opening of Fleurs Fraîches in Paris, Hockney was made Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France’s Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterand. David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, a major survey of the artist’s landscape work, will be presented at London’s Royal Academy in January 2012.

About Institute for Contemporary Culture


The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) is the Royal Ontario Museum's window on contemporary societies around the globe. Playing a vital role within the historical Museum, the ICC examines current cultural, social and political issues throughout the modern world in thought-provoking exhibitions of contemporary art, photography, architecture and design that are presented in the Roloff Beny Gallery and other galleries of the Museum. Additionally, a roster of public events including lectures, film series, debates and performances further explore relevant themes addressed in ICC exhibitions, serving as a catalyst for stimulating public conversations. The ROM's extensive collections of world cultures and natural history through the ages add context, meaning and depth to these engaging discussions of contemporary ideas. More information at: