The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx at New York Botanical Garden

The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx at New York Botanical Garden

One of history's most important landscape designers, Brazilian Roberto Burle Marx, will be celebrated at the New York Botanic Garden’s largest botanical exhibition ever.

The undulating black and white mosaics on the sidewalks at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, instantly recognizable the world over, is just one of the fabulous creations of Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94), who was also a painter, ceramicist, sculptor, researcher, singer, jewelry, tapestry and set designer. He saw himself as an artist above all and didn’t believe in separation between fields of practice. But among this spectrum of media, it is his landscapes that will be showcased at New York Botanic Garden’s exhibition, opening Saturday, June 8, entitled, “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx”. The show celebrates Burle Marx’s exuberant interpretation of modernism, bringing together a sensuous formalism with the lushness of Brazil’s native plants – palms, cycads, aroids, bromeliads and more.

Burle Marx began collecting plants in childhood, at the age of seven. And it was on a trip to Berlin to visit his German father’s family, following his graduation from the fine arts school National School of Fine Arts in Rio in 1933, that he recognized Brazilian flora in a Botanic Garden. That inspired a plant hunter’s pursuit and some 20 plants bear his name.

His landscape design is a pure expression of Brazilian spirit and place, and because of that Natura is proud to be one of the show’s sponsors. In particular, the artist’s legacy with regards to urgent ecological issues resonates at the heart of Natura’s mission. Burle Marx designed thousands of gardens and landscapes throughout his career and was acutely aware of the importance of conservation and sustainability before the topics ever became acknowledged by the public at large. A focus of the show will be his passionate advocacy for the preservation of Brazil’s native ecosystems. Visitors will have the chance to learn first hand about the important research and advocacy efforts of NYBG’s scientists in the region.

roberto burle marx and one of his gardens
The show will also feature examples from the range of his art – paintings, drawings, and textiles – revealing his creative process and how his approach to different media helped him to define the forms, shapes, and design ideas in his gardens. The hub for this research and practice was his Sítio – a living laboratory where he lived, worked and hosted friends and colleagues, leading botanists, artists, poets, and cultural figures from around the world.

The exhibition will encapsulate Brazilian culture as well. The country’s music and dance – think samba and capoeira, the country’s famed Afro-Brazilian martial art – will be part of an array of vibrant corollary programming. It promises to be informative, enlightening, and enormous fun!

Check the NYBG website for the complete program of music and dance performances and parades. The show will be up until Sunday, September 29.

For tickets and programming, visit

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