10 Tree-mendous Arboreal Artworks

Artists across the world have turned to trees for inspiration

By Google Arts & Culture

Beuys Tree

If you take a walk along 42nd Street, New York, keep your eyes open between 10th and 11th Avenue, you might just notice a very special tree. There are many other trees like it, but this tree is a Beuys Tree, a posthumous piece of installation art by the late Joseph Beuys.

7000 Oak Trees: Basalt No. 1 (1982) by Joseph BeuysCAFA Art Museum

Beuys trees are marked by an accompanying basalt monolith. The project began in 1982, when Beuys, along with volunteers, planted 7000 oak trees and stones in the German city of Kassel. The project continued, becoming a kind of memorial, following the artist's death in 1986.

Sculture di linfa (2007) by Giuseppe PenoneMAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts

Lymph Sculpture

Giuseppe Penone, the Italian artist associated with arte povera, is one of the best known arboreal sculptors. In this installation he evokes the sensation of a living tree from bark-like sheets of leather and a wooden beam, which he has filled with sweet-smelling resin.

Elevazione (2000/2001) by Giuseppe PenoneInhotim


Penone even incorporates actual living trees into his sculptures. This work, Elevation (2001), has a large bronze sculpture of a tree surrounded by living saplings. As the decades pass, these trees will grow to incorporate the sculpture, creating an organic architectural form.

Igloo with Tree ([1969]) by Mario MerzGalleria Civica di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Torino

Igloo with Tree

Alongside Penone in the arte povera movement was Mario Merz. In 1969, he created this Igloo with Tree, an architectural structure, resembling a botanical greenhouse but recalling the frigid treeless arctic, that brings together the natural and man-made.

Pot (Return home ) (2007) by Kim, Do MyoungKorean Art Museum Association

Pot (Return Home)

Korean artist Do Myoung Kim meditates on the circularity of plant and human life in his 2007 work, Pot (Return Home). Out of the soil, trees grow. Later in life, they are cut down and turned into paper. Which, over time, breaks down, becoming soil once again.

The Golden Trees The Golden Trees (2014/2014) by Michel BlazyCidade Matarazzo

The Golden Trees

When several saplings on the grounds of a hospital were to be felled, artist Michael Blazy offered to save them. He transplanted them to pots, trimmed them, and applied gold leaf, turning these young trees into art objects of desire, value, and veneration.

Two Wrapped Trees (1969) by ChristoArt Gallery of New South Wales

Two Wrapped Trees

The late artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude were known for wrapping objects, from the German Reichstag to the Arc de Triomph, in plastic, but some of their forays into this unusual medium were a little smaller. In 1969, while in Australia, Christo wrapped two eucalypts.

Seven Roots (Martin) (2018) by Ai WeiweiOscar Niemeyer Museum

Seven Roots (Martin)

Many people are familiar with Ai Weiwei's vast installations and provocative porcelain, but not perhaps his tree sculptures? This work, two conjoined tree stumps made in 2018 in Brazil, reflects his interest in 'readymade' art, traditional crafts, and ecological causes.

Old Pine Tree 09-1 (2009) by Lee, Gil RaeKorean Art Museum Association

Old Pine Tree

Gil Rae Lee constructs these tree-like sculptures from individual rings of metal, cut from pipes and bent into shape. They might not be natural, but these imaginative artworks represent the freedom and possibility of organic forms, from cellular structures to Giant Sequoias.

Ferment (2011) by Roxy PaineThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Similarly, Roxy Paine's silvery branching structures resemble the dendritic forms of nature; from the vascular and neurological systems of animal bodies, to river deltas and erosion patterns, and the tangled tendrils of tropical rainforests.

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