Magical World of Giant Flowers Inspired by the Elaborate Mating Rituals of Bowerbirds

Largescale Installation by Petrit Halilaj

Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj has created a fantastical, yet deeply personal, installation for his first solo exhibition at the Reina Sofía's Palacio de Cristal in Madrid. Inspired by the elaborate courtship rituals of bowerbirds, who are known for decorating structures to attract a mate,  he's strung up enormous flowers inside the glass conservatory.

Halilaj's work often tackles themes of home, nation, love, and cultural identity. The show, titled To a raven and the hurricanes which bring back smells of humans in love from unknown places, is no different. This time, the artist uses nature to construct a highly personal narrative. The large forsythia, palm seeds, cherry blossom, poppy, carnation, and lily flowers that dangle from the roof were constructed from steel and canvas in collaboration with Halilaj's life partner, Álvaro Urbano.

“I wanted to conceive Palacio de Cristal as a place for the celebration of love,” Halilaj declared. And by publicly demonstrating their love, the couple is making a big statement about acceptance, particularly when neither the artist's family nor Kosovar society fully embraces them. This call for acceptance also extends to the artist's own nation, as Kosovo is not a fully recognized state. In fact, Spain does not recognize Kosovo and is one of its biggest opponents in entering the European Union.

As a secondary concept, the nesting space that Halilaj has created within the Palacio de Cristal is tied to its environment. It cannot be separated from its surroundings and together they function as a whole. By opening windows and setting up feeding areas for birds to enter the space, he blends indoors and outdoors seamlessly. And by inviting viewers to wander among the enormous structures, he asks them to consider their own place in nature.

Halilaj's exhibition is the first to open at the Reina Sofía since its COVID-19 closure. In fact, the pandemic disrupted the installation of the show. But now, after opening in July, the world will have until February 28, 2021, to take in the work and contemplate this magical space.

For his first solo show in Spain, Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj installed enormous flowers at the Palacio de Cristal.

Petrit Halilaj - To a raven and hurricanes that from unknown places bring back smells of humans in loveContemporary Art Installation by Petrit HalilajLargescale Installation by Petrit Halilaj

The exhibition, which is on view until February 2021, is a commentary on love, identity, and acceptance.

Contemporary Art Installation by Petrit HalilajPetrit Halilaj - To a raven and hurricanes that from unknown places bring back smells of humans in lovePetrit Halilaj - To a raven and hurricanes that from unknown places bring back smells of humans in loveFlower Installation by Petrit HalilajPetrit Halilaj at the Palacio de CristalPetrit Halilaj at the Palacio de Cristal

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: Website | Instagram | Facebook

All photos via ImagenSubliminal (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero). My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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