More than a billon flowers are sold each year in Tokyo’s Ota market, making it one of Japan’s biggest flower markets. And it was right here that Azuma Makoto, one of the greatest flower artists alive, found the terrain to cultivate a passion which has made him world-famous.
Makoto was just 21 when, in 1997, he moved from Fukuoka to Tokyo in order to undertake a career as a grunge musician; while looking for financial support he took a part-time job in Ota market. In just a short time he quickly realised he had an innate connection with a world that had remained unknown to him until a short time before, and in 2002, together with Shunsuke Shiinoki, he opened in Ginza JARDINS des FLEURS (nowadays situated in Minami-Aoyama), a haute couture flower shop providing refined bouquets to order.
In 2005 Makoto started to find the expressive potential of plants through botanical sculpture fascinating, and in 2009 he founded AMKK (Azuma Makoto Kaju Kenkyujo), an experimental botanical research institute which became the location for all of his projects.
His compositions are not designed to be purely aesthetic, but also scientific. ‘Iced flowers’ arranged flowers in tubs full of water which was then frozen. This dramatically beautiful and suggestive artwork (which was used by Dries Van Noten during his 2016 Women’s Collection fashion parade) studies the behaviour of petals, leaves, stamens and stems frozen in blocks of ice.
In Exobiotanica, on the other hand, Makoto launched, from the Nevada desert, a bouquet of flowers connected to a weather balloon in order to find out how they reacted to being in space, and took film with special cameras. The pictures showing them in the stratosphere are truly amazing.
Makoto has worked with companies as prestigious as Hermès, Dior, Perrier-Jouët, LEGO and many others, but his greatest aspiration remains that of analysing the infinite potential for expression of his flowers.
In Japan, a country where Ikebana, that is the art of cut flower decorating, has roots going back more than 500 years, Azuma Makoto has pushed it to limits never previously reached and has ensured his flowers will not be appreciated solely on their decorative merits but glorified for their spiritual strength and essence.
Tokyo, October 25 2018