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7,000 Oaks by Joseph Beuys

Possibly the most important German artist of the post World War II 20th Century, Joseph Beuys was a sculptor, performance artist, installation artist, graphic artist and art theorist. When I think of Beuys, I immediately conjure bolts of awkward grey felt, or “I Like America and America Likes Me,” his performance in which he shared a gallery space with a coyote for three days. But, Beuys brought forth the concept of the “social sculpture,” in which he believed revolutionary change was possibly through universal human creativity. One such sculpture began at Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany in 1982 when Bueys had a pile of basalt stones delivered to the site. Each was  paired with a newly planted tree, inciting social and environmental change. The result being both fluid and stoic at once ,  with the ever growing tree and the solid basalt mass. By 1989, 7000 trees, paired with basalt stones, were planted in Kassel. Beuys had intended the project to become world wide,to promote urban renewal.

Started in 1988 and completed in 1996, the Dia Foundation extended the project to 22nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. Rather than planting exclusively oak trees, Dia chose to plant Gingko, Linden, Bradford pear, Sycamore, Pin Oak, Red Oak and Elm Honey Locust, totaling 22 trees/sculptures in all. Perhaps clairvoyant in their location, as the epicenter of the New York art world in the late 80s was Soho, the living sculptures align the busy street of galleries in the bustling Chelsea art district. Blink and you might just miss it!


Who: Joseph Beuys

What: 7,000 Oaks

Where: 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, New York, NY

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  1. […] The Comme de Garcons building on West 22nd Street is set amidst a heavily art-ed area, with Beuy’s 7,000 Oaks„ a slew of galleries and the Chelsea Art Museum on the same street. The building itself has a […]

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