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What’s the giant ‘Breathing Flower’ on the MFA lawn?

The Museum of Fine Arts is promising that “Megacities Asia” will be the largest contemporary exhibition it’s ever mounted. The evidence is big, red, and breathing on its front lawn.

“Breathing Flower,” a sculpture by the celebrated South Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa, bloomed Wednesday in front of the museum’s Huntington Avenue facade, pushing art fans and selfie freaks to Twitter. Nearly 20 feet in diameter and built from cherry-red inflatable cloth, the work serves as a magnetic sample of the larger exhibit’s urbanist themes.

“In the city, the artificial is very much a part of the natural, so works like ‘Breathing Flower’ sort of speak to the value of the fake nature that we encounter,” said Al Miner, assistant curator of contemporary art at the MFA. “A fake flower lasts forever. It has a more enduring beauty that maybe the natural does not.”


It’s also great press. Jen Mergel, the MFA’s senior curator of contemporary art, called the flower a “selfie magnet” on Twitter. Designed to move gently, the lotus-shaped sculpture also glows in the dark, prompting one Twitter user to proclaim it “#trippy” and “#awesome.”

Miner noted that, in addition to “Breathing Flower” (which was constructed specifically for the museum, matching other iterations on display elsewhere) and two more Choi works inside the exhibit proper, the museum would put up the artist’s “Fruit Tree” at Faneuil Hall Marketplace on April 7. Selfies or no, Miner said, public attention is exactly Choi’s intention.

“To see the average person stop in their tracks and get something out of it, some joy, some happiness, some surprise,” Miner said, “I think that would be a home run for him.”

Besides, it’s spring. Fake flowers are better than frosty ones.

“Megacities Asia” opens April 3 at the Museum of Fine Arts.


Watch: Timelapse of ‘Breathing Flower’

Joe Incollingo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jk_inco.