In response to the climate emergency, artists Ackroyd & Harvey have installed Beuys’ Acorns, a group of 100 oak trees, on Tate Modern’s South Terrace.
Beuys’ Acorns takes its inspiration from the artist and co-founder of the German Green party Joseph Beuys, whose centenary it is this year. From 1982 to 1987, Beuys and his helpers planted 7,000 trees alongside 7,000 basalt rocks in Kassel, Germany. Called 7000 Oaks this ‘social sculpture’, as Beuys called it, permanently altered the cityscape, connecting art to the emerging climate movement.
In 2007, British artists Ackroyd & Harvey travelled to Kassel and collected acorns from the original oaks. A hundred of the now-grown trees will come together at Tate Modern, creating a living sculpture – a place for gathering and for rethinking our connections with nature.
At Tate Modern, Beuys’ Acorns will sit directly above Beuys’s work The End of the Twentieth Century, installed in the Tanks below. Its basalt stones are derived from the same rocks used in 7000 Oaks, reuniting the two elements from Beuys’s original piece.
Ackroyd & Harvey are co-founders of Culture Declares Emergency, which launched in April 2019. The movement aims to create strategic plans for individuals and organisations – including Tate – to help sustain the planet.
As part of Beuys’ legacy and a continuation of his work, seven of the oak saplings will be permanently planted in the local area around Tate Modern next year. The artists aim to plant the remaining trees by 2025.