Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree (2013)

Iron Tree (2013) by Ai Weiwei - a pieced together tree - beside a chapel

‘Iron Tree comprises 99 elements cast in iron… interlocked using a classic – and here exaggerated – Chinese method of joining, with prominent nuts and screws.’

From the Yorkshire Sculpture Park notes

Glimpsed from a distance, Ai Weiwei’s fake trees pass as real, but dead. As you draw closer, your mind engages with the forms and construction and questions arise. What is it? Why is it? Are the branches actually roots? Is it wood?

Iron Tree (2013) was cast from Tree (2010) which had been assembled from chunks chopped from the roots, trunks and branches of various species of dead trees collected in southern China.

The making is central to the sculpture. No attempt is made to conceal the cuts or joins, to smooth out the lines, or make the sculpture look like a real tree. It’s close enough to give us pause when we see it, but clumsy enough to remind us that humans can’t make trees.

Designed to be outdoors, the sculpture will rust, respond to natural light, and its mood will vary as its surroundings alter with the seasons.

The picture shows Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree (2013) in the chapel garden at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It’s now in the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids MI.

Shared for Becky’s SquareTops because the Iron Tree’s pieces have been topped and tailed. I love her picture today which also features a tree. I’m also tagging for today’s Discover Prompt (New) as one of the curiosities about Iron Tree is the relationship of new and old.

36 Replies to “Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree (2013)”

  1. I like your question “why is it?” I’ve had to spend a little while on it; there’s an incongruity about the whole image such that looking at it was kind of like falling off my bike. It stopped me but made me more aware of what I was doing before I got back on. I didn’t know anything about the Chinese method of joining — thank you!

        1. I edited out the link as it was somehow inserting the picture here too big for the space, covering some of the words. It does give a really good feeling for the scale with the tiny person in the background. I tried to search for it on a post rather than the image file as I could have linked to that at the end of my post, but I couldn’t find it. (You didn’t get trapped – all links are held for approval.)

  2. I’m a huge fan of his. Luckily the Lisson Gallery in London seems to show a ot of his works. Haven’t seen this tree, but have spent hours wandering around his cast iron tree stumps complete with roots.

    1. We saw several of his trees at Cambridge a few years ago. It was another great setting, with the classicism of the building adding something.

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