London’s gone mad for Christmas trees. How else to explain what’s happneing all over town with evergreens—namely, a trio of festive installations that pay homage to the pine tree in ways best described as unusual.
To begin with, there’s the Tate Britain’s upside down Christmas tree, an installation by the Iranian-born artist Shirazeh Houshiary, currently on view in the gallery’s refurbished rotunda. Centered and held aloft by wires, the tree is natural and unadorned, save its roots, which, having been given a gold-dipped makeover, remain the installation’s falshiest and most ornamental part. Explains the artist, “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, a celebrated sculptor, continues a Tate tradition of artist-commissioned Christmas tree interpretations—a tradition started in 1988, and put on hold in 2013 as a massive renovation project commenced. Tate Britain’s Director, Alex Farquharson, is pleased. “This tree fits the new space perfectly, allowing a different generation to experience the majesty of Houshiary’s work in the striking setting of the new entrance and staircase.”
Across town in tony Mayfair, the Claridge’s hotel lobby has been given over to an immersive Christmas tree experience created by Apple’s design gurus, Jony Ive and Marc Newson. “Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognizing our excitement about the future and things to come,” say the designers. To that end, Ive and Newson leverage both mother nature and modern technology for their seasonal installation: an ethereal forest of real birch trees, glowing boxes of photographed birch trees, artificial snow, and an orchestra of colored lights, all of which converge for a moody, magical tableau which visitors can traverse for a fleeeting few weeks.
Elsewhere in London—in the city’s King’s Cross neighborhood, to be exact—British artist Alex Chinneck has created another art piece in which a Christmas Tree figures prominently. Fighting Fire with Ice Cream is, in typical Chinneck fashion, an optical illusion in which a real Christmas tree, measuring 17 feet high, appears to be encased in a huge block of ice. The ice, in question, however, is actually a carved resin sculpture into which the tree is ensconced, and the melted section at the installation’s bottom is fashioned from wax. Explains the artist, “I was thinking about a seasonally relevant material and landed on the idea, like a fly-in-an-ice-cube.”