Between 1982 and 1987, German Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys, with the help of volunteers, planted 7,000 oak trees in Kassel, Germany. Each tree was flanked by a stone, to provide nourishment for the soil around the tree as it eroded.
The project, subtitled “City Forestation Instead of City Administration,” was created for the 1982 international art exhibition Documenta 7, and the final tree was planted at the opening of Documenta 8 in 1987. Since then it has inspired similar works throughout the world.
In 1988, the Dia Art Foundation continued the 7000 Oaks project in New York City by planting five trees (a gingko, a linden, a bradford pear, a sycamore, and an oak) along 548 West 22nd Street. The same basalt stone markers were installed next to each tree. In 1996, the foundation planted 18 more trees (each one with its own basalt stone) on 22nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. The extensions of Beuys’ work continue to grow and erode all at once on the street in Chelsea.
Beuys died in 1986, a year before oak tree number 7,000 was planted, and two years before the New York additions. His legacy of ecological intervention and urban renewal, however, continues to inspire environmental and social change to this day.
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