Tate's Christmas Tree Bares All

christmas tree photo

Photo: the artsdesk

It's been a tough year and many holiday celebrations this year are being kept simple. For example, the Tate Britain Art Gallery. It has a long tradition of commissioning famous artists to decorate the Christmas tree in its lobby.

This year's tree has: no decoration. No funny colours, no gimmicks, no avant garde baubles, just 30 ft. of natural beauty.

The towering Norwegian spruce is designed by artist Giorgio Sadotti and is called Flowered Ssnakes. The tree's only decoration consists of some shiny silver cards at its base. They are advertising a performance art piece on the Twelfth night, on January 6, when the "decorations" are traditionally taken down. There is also a coiled whip to beat out the spirits...and that's all folks.

The artist denies that he is being provocative; he said that he is "showing what I believe to be a naturally beautiful object. When you see a tree in the forest you don't think 'that tree's naked, it needs a bit of tinsel'. I want people to question the way objects are transformed by being moved from one context to another."

It's not really an environmental statement; more a meditation on "tree-ness".

As he says: "For me, the challenge was to present a tree that was naturally effortless, a tree that managed to maintain its dignity and timeless grace. A tree that remained sublime. A tree that was familiar but strange, like all trees but no other. A tree that had potential to become another. A tree that talked. A tree as a tree as art."

But the true eco- position would be to not cut down a tree at all. And in 2002, Tracy Emin's "tree" consisted of a message board inviting visitors to make a donation to a charity in return for the chance to win a piece of her art.


Photo: the Guardian Shirazeh Houshiary

The tree made by Shirazeh Houshiary in 1993 was suspended upside-down and its roots covered in gold leaf.

mike landy photo

Photo: the Guardian Michael Landy

In 2001 Michael Landy focused on the waste at Christmas and filled a bin full of rubbish for his "tree."

smith tree photo

Photo: the Guardian Bob and Roberta Smith

In 2008 Bob and Roberta Smith created a pedal-powered tree made of recycled materials, including sandwich boards, tape, signs and an oil drum. Eight bicycles of various sizes each held a generator connected to a set of light bulbs that lit up when the bicycle pedals were pushed hard enough.

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