27 April – 6 June 2021
a walk-in art intervention
Münsterplatz, Basel

Extended until 06.06.2021

An art and installation project by Klaus Littmann

Public Program  | Publication

What began around 30 years ago as an artistic intellectual game by Klaus Littmann, and was later implemented in the Wörtherseestadion in Klagenfurt in 2019, will be carried on in Switzerland with a completely new approach. While in Klagenfurt a football stadium was filled with 299 trees, here a single tree will become the main actor of the stage. It is the centreof a public arena, in the heart of Basel in the middle of the busy Münsterplatz. With the intervention Arena for a Tree, Littmann continues his presentation of Max Peintner’s idea from the early 1970s. The work challenges our perception and sharpens our perspective on the future in relation to mankind and nature.

Arena for a Tree - a walk-in art intervention by Klaus Littmann, 2021, Münsterplatz Basel

The tree itself – mainplayer in this walk-in art installation in the center of Basel’s Münsterplatz – represents the forest. It is a symbol for nature and its preservation, a stark ambassador in kind and a testimonial for this exhibition cycle. The arena, is made of treated spruce wood, has a diameter of  twelve  meters  and  is  shaped  like  a  round  basket made  of  loose  mesh  that protects  the  tree -eight meters high, that reaches almost the top of the tree. The irregularity of the outer shape and structure of the individual lamellas that form the "mesh" is based on those of a tree. Togetherwith the surrounding grandstand inside, they depict the annual rings of a tree.

Enzo Enea ultimately chose the Persian ironwood tree, Parrotia Persica, a member of the witch hazel family. The slow-growing ironwood tree, which can reach a height of up to ten meters, is, as its name suggests, made of very dense, hard wood, so heavy that it is one of the few types of wood that does not float on water. In autumn its leaves display a spectacular array of colors ranging from yellow to red. Originally from Persia and the Caucasus, which also have a continental climate, the ironwood tree is accustomed to distinct seasons. It likes warm weather but is also hardy and tolerates the urban climate particularly well. Enea finds that this robustness, which also includes high resistance to pests and diseases, makes the stress-resistant ironwood tree the perfect candidate for the project, one that is also ideally equipped to deal with the effects of climate change: a tree of the future.

Collaboration with the Naturhistorisches Museum Basel
Listen to what Ueli Meier Bosshard, forest engineer ETH and head of the Basel Forestry Office has to say about the importance of the forest as part of our ecosystem. If you want to learn more about the state of our planet, visit the special exhibition ERDE AM LIMIT at the Natural History Museum Basel, located at Augustinergasse 2.

Collaboration with the Museum der Kulturen Basel
The tree of the arena will take root somewhere in Basel after completion of the project. Elsewhere in the world, roots of felled or dead trees are used to create sculptures. In many cultures, the art of carving is estimated on the basis of whether a carving was created out of one single piece of wood. Currently, some of these carvings are on display in the courtyard of the Museum der Kulturen Basel and in the exhibition space. www.mkb.ch/de

The Arena for a Tree is part of the exhibition Tree Connections which will be on view from May 11 to July 11. Accompanying the exhibition is an extensive catalog published by Hatje Cantz as well as a diverse public program.