Artnet_ In recent weeks, a hot pink beacon has arisen on the High Line at West 30th Street. Standing 25 feet tall atop the High Line Plinth, Old Tree is the work of Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz, its 145 branches recalling at once both the limbs of a tree and human blood vessels.
“This piece immediately stood out because of the ambition of scale, and the color is something incredible that brought it to a whole other level,” Cecilia Alemani, the director and chief curator of High Line Art told Artnet News during the installation of the work. “It’s like the central square in a village with a tree and benches around it.”
Fabricated outside San Diego and shipped cross country in two trucks, the work had arrived in pieces, a steel armature covered with spray foam and carefully sculpted into delicate branches sealed with epoxy.
Each of the 16 limbs and six roots were carefully assembled on site, the tree growing bit by bit, almost as if it had been planted there by Rosenkranz. (The artist even covered the plinth with an earthy surface so it resembles soil.)
“It’s a synthetic artificial tree in the middle of a park,” Alemani said. That contrast between the natural and the manmade—on a park that is itself an abandoned train track once reclaimed by nature—was part of what drew her to the work, which was first proposed in 2020 in response to an open call. It became a finalist for the site that November.
Old Tree is the third commission for the plinth, which launched in 2019 with Brick House by Simone Leigh. (That piece later won a Golden Lion at the 2022 Venice Biennale, curated by Alemani.) It follows Untitled (drone) by Sam Durant.
The new artwork’s bold color is a dramatic departure from its two predecessors, which were black and white, as well as the Hudson Yards skyscrapers that tower above it.
“This new part of the city is kind of cold, with incredible glass and mirrored surfaces. It’s so corporate and masculine in a way,” Alemani said. “The contrast with the surroundings is really quite stunning.”
Rosenkranz applied the bright reddish pink paint as she would to one of her canvases, with seven layers topped with with a clear UV coating.
You can see subtle drips and variations in texture of the painted surface, which adds to the fleshy, bodily feel of the work. The trunk could be a torso, muscular and strong, while the roots and branches recall a delicate network of veins and capillaries.
Compared to the initial renderings, Alemani said, “it looks much less of a tree.”
The works unveiling comes ahead of the opening of a new extension of the High Line Spur, which was once slated for demolition. Just beyond the plinth and nearing completion is the High Line’s new Moynihan Connection, first announced by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo in January 2021.
The Woodland Bridge, extending along 30th Street, was built last year, with 63 trees, 90 shrubs, and over 5,000 grasses and flowers. This weekend, it was connected to to the public plaza in Brookfield Properties’ Manhattan West building on 9th Avenue with the installation of a 300-foot Timber Bridge made from Alaskan yellow cedar. From there, pedestrians will be able to access the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station.
“You can walk all the way down to the West Village without crossing the street,” Alemani said.
The $50 million project is expected to open to the public this summer.
“Pamela Rosenkranz: Old Tree” is on view at the High Line at the Spur, at West 30th Street and 10th Avenue, New York, May 2023–September 2024.