Indulge in the South Pacific at Selby Gardens

By Kai Rambow


Your sensory adventure to the South Pacific starts the moment you arrive.  Tikis, tapa cloth and a bamboo ceiling greet visitors at the entrance.  The primitive symbols are an inviting introduction celebrating Selby Gardens’ interdisciplinary exhibit featuring Gauguin.  Lovely surprises await, including seldom seen prints by Gauguin.

Displays are deceivingly simple in appearance; masterfully complex in design.  In the conservatory, dug-out canoes are symbolic of the main transportation for islanders in Tahiti and the Marquesas.  These canoes hold beautiful, tropical flowers and plants – and are the conduit for a waterfall.  If you look at this from different vantage points and distances, you’ll experience the same waterfall a few different ways.

Farther along you’ll spot red plants in a circle.  Use your imagination a little and you’ll see it represents a fire pit.  A giant tiki towards the end gives a different impression depending on where you stand.  Have fun looking at everything in the conservatory from different vantage points.


The Gardens

A garden map with tiki symbols will help you locate all the Gauguin related displays.  Some are immediately obvious; others require a little more observation.  The koi pond, one of the most serene places at Selby, at first looks the same but has a sizable canoe with flowers.

The fishing village looks like you’re in the South Pacific.  This iconic display was completely transformed with coconut trees and sugar-white sand.  Take your picture here and tell all your friends you’ve travelled to Tahiti.


Gauguin’s Prints

Gauguin paintings are rarely seen in a collective exhibition.  Owners are very reluctant to loan their work(s).  Selby Gardens has managed to pull together a dozen prints by Gauguin.

Sometimes sketches or prints feel like a semi-finished work.  Not so with Gauguin’s prints; many are as evocative as his paintings.  Take some time to really look at each print; spend more time with those that resonate with you.  You’ll find these at the Payne Mansion.

Selby Gardens has once again created an exhibit that is both thoughtful and fun.  Remember good walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses and your camera.  Gauguin runs until June 30.  Open 10 to 5 daily.  Plan on arriving early to get a parking spot and walk the grounds in good temperatures.

Michael’s on East has once again created a tasty menu inspired by Gauguin’s life and work.  The Café and a food truck have different selections, so you might want to check both menus before deciding where to refuel.


Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

900 South Palm Avenue

Sarasota, Florida

(941) 366-5731


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