A grid of multicolored flowers on a black block.
Courtesy Makoto Azuma

The Scentless Eternal Flowers Made by Japanese Artist Makoto Azuma

The latest installment of his “Block Flowers” series sits in an alcove at Burnside, a new culinary and event space in Tokyo.
By Cynthia Rosenfeld
February 27, 2021
2 minute read

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what does it do to the nose? Tokyo-based floral artist Makoto Azuma, who has sent his outrageous bouquets down the Dries Van Noten runway, up into outer space, and under the sea, addresses this and other existential questions in a site-specific work made for Burnside from preserved plants that are wholly divested of scent. Part of his “Block Flowers” series, which considers our collective desire to stop time and lock in an object’s allure, the bold, six-panel piece hangs on a blackened wood wall above the space’s banquette alcove.

Stripping flowers of their natural olfactory aspect is a laborious exercise. Working out of the Azuma Makoto Botanical Research Institute (AMKK), which the artist founded in 2009 with photographer Shunsuke Shiinoki, the peroxide-blond former musician and his team freeze-dried the greenery then placed them in molds filled with liquid resin to preserve each specimen for eternity. “‘Block Flowers’ intentionally has no scent,” Azuma says. “Conversely, it makes you imagine.”

He gathered his materials from far and wide in a nod to Burnside’s plans to host visiting chefs from around the world—yet the obvious prettiness of their fuchsia, periwinkle, scarlet, and electric-blue petals is not the renegade artist’s intention. “I chose to showcase each as a modernized botanical specimen with their roots remaining attached,” he says, adding that his aim was to expose a deeper truth beyond the superficial—and ultimately evanescent—qualities of beauty.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, which renders gathering places like Burnside empty, Azuma sees the project, and his installation, at work. “The space becomes stillness, very solid and cool,” he says. Once the pandemic ends and creative minds can activate the venue’s purpose in full, he says, “‘Block Flowers’ will act like a guardian over the entire space: a witness to the beauty of each moment, frozen in time.”