Shirazeh Houshiary’s stunning upside down tree is the first thing that visitors to the Tate Britain will see as they enter the gallery over the festive period. Suspended in the stunning gallery entrance, the tree is the first to be commissioned by the gallery since their extensive refurbishment in 2013. Marking what Tate director Alex Farquharson calls a ‘pivotal moment’ in the Tate’s festive calendar, the tree is void of traditional decoration, bar the gold leaf paint that adorns its exposed roots.
In a year that has felt somewhat upside down, Houshiary has used the commission as a chance to challenge viewers to see things from a new perspective. The artist turns the tree on its head, making the once-hidden roots take the place of the star on a traditional Christmas tree. Seen from the member’s lounge on the third floor of the gallery, the gold leaf roots even appear to spread out in a star-like shape in the light of the large dome ceiling.
Houshiary’s installation suggests that value is unfairly attributed to the parts of the tree which can be seen. By drawing attention to the tree’s forgotten roots, the artist highlights that the tree can only survive and become a thing of beauty with the roots providing the support and nourishment that it needs.
Written by intern Rhiannon Johns.