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A Picturesque Voyage through ‘Trees’

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain’s latest exhibition gives voice to figures who, aesthetically or scientifically, reveal the beauty and biological wealth of trees which is currently being threatened by deforestation.

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“There is nothing purely human, the vegetal exists in all that is human, and the tree is at the origin of all experience.” Emanuele Coccia

Trees are an unmissable aspect of our natural surroundings and for our survival — yet, perhaps because of that same reason, they are inextricably taken for granted. For example, every minute, an area the size of a football pitch is razed from the Amazon rainforest. Even though they are amongst oldest living organisms on the planet (the first known fossil forest dates back to 385 million years ago), scientists and researchers are discovering new things about trees every day in what some refer to as a “plant revolution”: referring to how trees not only boast sensory and memory capacities but have communication skills as well.

In resonance with this “plant revolution”, the ‘Trees’ exhibition at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain merges the ideas and fascinations of both researchers and artists, further investigating the exploration of ecological issues and the question of humans’ relationship to nature. Orchestrated with anthropologist Bruce Albert, the project revolves around a number of individuals who have developed a unique relationship with trees, whether intellectual, scientific or aesthetic.

Featuring drawings, paintings, photographs, films, and installations by people from Latin America, Europe, the United States, Iran, and from several indigenous communities around the globe — the exhibition, whose exhibition design almost emulates that of a botanical garden greenhouse, explores three narrative threads. Firstly, our knowledge of trees—from botany to new plant biology—; secondly, aesthetics—from naturalistic contemplation to dreamlike transposition—; and lastly, trees’ current devastation recounted via documentary observations and pictorial testimonies. Playing on the dialogue between inside and outside, the exhibition is further extended into Fondation Cartier’s garden — in which visitors are invited to stroll through the trees and consider their role in architectural, artistic and scientific innovations.

By bringing together these artistic and scientific testimonies, the exhibition highlights those that are capable of looking at the vegetal world with wonder — aiming to restore the tree to its place from which it had been stripped by contemporary anthropocentrism.  

The exhibition features works by: Efacio Álvarez, Herman Álvarez, Fernando Allen & Fredi Casco, Claudia Andujar, Eurides Asque Gómez, Thijs Biersteker, José Cabral, Johanna Calle, Jorge Carema, Alex Cerveny, Raymond Depardon & Claudine Nougaret, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Paz Encina, Charles Gaines, Francis Hallé, Fabrice Hyber, Joseca, Clemente Juliuz, Kalepi, Salim Karami, Mahmoud Khan, Angélica Klassen, Esteban Klassen, Cesare Leonardi & Franca Stagi, George Leary Love, Stefano Mancuso, Sebastián Mejía, Ógwa, Marcos Ortiz, Tony Oursler, Giuseppe Penone, Santídio Pereira, Nilson Pimenta, Osvaldo Pitoe, Miguel Rio Branco, Afonso Tostes, Agnès Varda, Adriana Varejão, Cássio Vasconcellos, Ehuana Yaira and Luiz Zerbini.

‘Trees’ will be on view at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain until November 10, 2019.

On the occasion of this exhibition, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain has released two exceptional publications: the exhibition catalogue of ‘Trees’ and L’Architecture des arbres (A reference work on trees carried out by Italian architects Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi over the last 20 years).


Cover Photo: Exhibition view at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 2019. Photo: Thibaut Voisin.

Fondation Cartier's garden. Photo: Luc Boegly
Photo: Thibaut Voisin.
View of Fondation Cartier's garden, Paris 2019. (Agnès Varda, La Cabane du chat, 2016). Photo © Eric Sander
José Cabral, Cabo Delgado, Tete, 2002, Gelatin Silver Print, 35 x 24 cm. MAGNIN-A, Paris © José Cabral. Photo © Cyrille Martin
Photo: Luc Boegly
Luiz Zerbini, Monstera Deliciosa, 2018. monotype on paper, 107 x ~ 80 cm. Collection of the artist, Rio de Janeiro © Luiz Zerbini. Photo © Pat Kilgore.
Photo: Luc Boegly
Photo: Thibaut Voisin.
Cássio Vasconcellos, series: A Picturesque Voyage Through Brazil, #37, 2015, inkjet print on cotton paper, 75 x 112 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo.
Photo: Thibaut Voisin.
Esteban Klassen, Untitled, 2019, ink on paper, 21 × 29 cm, Collection Verena Regehr, Chaco, Paraguay © Esteban Klassen
Photo: Thibaut Voisin.

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