The Telebasel Talk 30 April 2021


With this intervention, the Basel art impresario Klaus Littmann is following up on his spectacular 2019 stadium forest project in Klagenfurt.

The structure, which has been placed in Basel’s Münsterplatz, looks like a huge permeable wicker basket. In the middle of it, an approximately eight-metre-high tree rises up into the air, which can be viewed in leisure from the seating steps inside the arena. The name of the installation “Arena for a Tree”, which opened this week, thus says it all.

The idea came from Klaus Littmann, who has made a name for himself far beyond the borders of his home town as an organiser of art interventions in public spaces. Most recently, he attracted a lot of attention with the spectacular project “For Forest – the unending attraction of nature”. In 2019, Klaus Littmann had transformed a football stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria, into an arena for a forest with 299 trees.

Protecting a tree
In the intervention in Basel, which is supported by the Kulturstiftung Basel KBH.G, a tree has been left as an artistic readymade, so to speak. According to Klaus Littmann, this changes the contextual background of the intervention. Whereas the action in Klagenfurt was based on the gloomy vision that nature might one day only be observed in a reserve, in Basel it was more or less a matter of protecting a tree.

At first glance, the elegantly curved wooden arena elevates the “representative of the forest”, according to Littmann, to the status of a contemplative work of art, which is less likely to be perceived as the tree in its natural environment.

But the tree itself, a Caucasian ironwood tree, is more than that. In urban spaces, it could be a tree of the future, said Enzo Enea, a Basel landscape architect involved in the intervention. Unlike many traditional native species, the ironwood tree stands up well to global warming, which is particularly noticeable in cities, he said.

Accordingly, the tree will remain in Basel as a gift at the end of the intervention’s term, while the arena will move with new trees to other locations that have not yet been precisely determined. The city of Basel will offer it a permanent home in a park.

The “Arena for a Tree”, which is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., is an important part of an exhibition that the Basel Cultural Foundation KBH.G will open on 11 May at its headquarters on Spitalstrasse in Basel. According to the announcement, the exhibition will feature around 75 works by 45 artists from the 19th century to the present day, presenting the “diversity of artistic engagement with nature”.

more about ARENA FOR A TREE, Basel 2021 / Zurich 2022 / Venice 2024