Every December, the Tate Britain debuts its much-anticipated Christmas tree. Designed by a different contemporary artist each year, the famed museum’s trees are both yuletide decorations and works of modern art. This year, Iranian installation artist Shirazeh Houshiary has quite literally turned the tradition on its head with her upside-down evergreen.
Suspended by its trunk, the tree hovers above the main entrance’s stunning spiral staircase. Its branches are left unadorned, but its roots—which are intentionally exposed—are accentuated with a reflective coating of luminous gold leaf. While the design is visually striking and artistically fascinating, Houshiary notes that its meaning and message are deeper than its aesthetics. “I would like us to contemplate that the pine tree is one of the oldest species and recognize the roots are the source of its continued stability, nourishment and longevity,” Houshiary explains in the exhibit’s press release. “As the roots remain hidden, it is best to seek what is hidden rather than what is apparent. As a Buddhist monk wrote, ‘an old pine tree preaches wisdom.’”
Though a seemingly novel creation, this year’s piece is not the first of its kind. Houshiary actually introduced the inventive idea in 1993 when she was commissioned to create the museum’s fifth annual tree. To celebrate its recent renovation project, the museum has nostalgically invited the accomplished artist to recreate the initial installation, allowing “a different generation to experience the majesty of [her] work in the striking setting of the new entrance and staircase.” Exceptionally modern yet rooted in the past, this peculiar piece is the perfect way to celebrate the season.
If you’re lucky enough to be in London December 2 or 3, the Tate Britain will be hosting a weekend of festive fun to celebrate Houshiary’s topsy-turvy tree. You can learn more about the events here.
All images via Tate Britain.
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