Mysterious, bearer of knowledge, silent observer: The tree is deeply rooted in culture – as a mediator between the divine and the human, as an object of science, and as a warning sign for ecological (mis)developments. In dedicating an exhibition to the tree that spans numerous styles and epochs, the Belvedere is focusing on a central subject in art history and its complex relationship with humankind.
Curated by Miroslav Haľák.
In cooperation with
Art as reflection of the symbiosis between humans and trees: The Lower Belvedere exhibition builds a conceptual bridge from the tree as knowledge of good and evil, to the tree of wisdom, to the tree as the metaphorical axis of the world. The significance of the tree in art is explained by a thematic "branch" that stretches from the spiritual to the rationally perceptible to statements of environmentalism.
The selection of works is drawn from the Belvedere's collection, supplemented with international contributions. The artistic works cover a period from the 15th century to the present.
The personified tree is guardian, loner, social being, listener, protector, or climate savior. Whether as a somber projection for eternal punishment, as in Giovanni Segantini's The Evil Mothers, or as the narrator of the intimate story of a peaceful idyll, as in Blossoming Chestnut by Emilie Mediz-Pelikan, in art, the tree stands for the qualities projected onto it. Headstanding Totem by Nilbar Güreş from 2014 is a contemporary take on a mythological figure that, in close association with the tree, can also be interpreted as an appeal to sensitivity toward the environment.