Being Marc Chagall's Granddaughter Is Gift and Burden for Manhattan Florist

Bella Meyer Reveres Artist's Memory But Blazes Own Path

liz ligon

By Paul Berger

Published April 20, 2014, issue of April 25, 2014.

If you’re the kind of person who has a theme for your Passover Seder, and if your theme this year is Marc Chagall, then you might have hired Bella Meyer for your table’s flower display.

That’s because Meyer, the proprietor of Fleurs Bella, in Manhattan’s East Village, is Chagall’s granddaughter.

One weekday afternoon shortly before Passover, a customer, accompanied by her own floral designer, stopped by Meyer’s store with just such a request.

The three sat down at a small, circular table at the back of the store to discuss the concept and colors.

Meyer, 58, long ago came to terms with the attention that accompanies being the granddaughter of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists.

“It took me many years to realize that I had to be myself and turn what I had learned through my grandfather into something which is mine,” Meyer said. “I am very proud to be his granddaughter, because I love him.”

Meyer, who speaks with a soft French accent, was born in Paris and raised in Switzerland. She has a twin sister, Meret Meyer, who lives in Europe.

Bella is named after her mother’s mother, Bella Rosenfeld, who was Chagall’s beloved first wife and muse.

Meyer grew up in a home where her grandfather was the center of attention, not as the mythic Chagall, but simply as a great painter.

“I always knew my grandfather to be extremely insecure,” Meyer said. “Whatever he did always came from his heart, but he always needed to have an affirmation from people to know if they loved his work.”

As a teenager, Meyer was drawn to art history, theology and religious studies.

“It’s like a message I had gotten from my mother and my grandfather of being attracted to beauty, being attracted to spiritual thoughts, but mostly to bringing joy into life,” she said.

She moved to New York 35 years ago. “I was completely taken by some imaginary New York with jazz, with popular culture, with contemporary art,” she said.

At first she worked at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Later she made theater costumes, masks and puppets.

Finally, 10 years ago, she “went to a flower market and saw the extraordinary beauty and texture and colors of flowers, and I said: ‘Why do I look anywhere else to try to bring this out of what I try to do? Because it’s all there.’”

Rather than “bouquets” or “arrangements,” Meyer refers to her work as “installations.”

Her shop front on East 11th Street is narrow and deep. With its long white walls and wooden pillars and beams, the space feels like a cross between an artist’s studio and a fairy-tale wood.



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