Tippet Rise installs the sculpture by Ai Weiwei – Daily Montanan – Daily Montanan | Candle Made Easy

A team from the Tippet Rise Art Center last week installed an artwork, “Iron Tree,” by internationally renowned artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei on a landscape that celebrates the connection between art, music, architecture and nature.

“The founders, Peter and Cathy (Halstead), trustees of Tippet Rise, realized that this particular work would be available,” Pete Hinmon, co-director of the cultural center, said in a phone call. “The owner wanted to sell it. So of course we took the opportunity. Ai Weiwei is an incredible artist and activist.”

Located on a 12,500-acre working sheep and cattle station in Fishtail, Tippet Rise features outdoor music performances and sculpture tours along a 13-mile trail. The piece, by the Chinese artist who has been protesting human rights abuses and the refugee crisis, is among several new artworks to be installed at Tippet Rise this summer (see below).

“The presence of an iron replica tree definitely makes you think about the environment and how important it is to think about our actions and how they impact the beautiful world and the resources we have here in Montana and around the world,” said Hinmon.

Across 97 different plays, “Iron Tree” will juxtapose the grassland landscape it will inhabit and connect with stories about the state’s environment. Montana has a well-known relationship with Asia, and the installation is also part of the state’s connection with China.

“We have some significant ties to China, although our demographics may not reflect it,” said Hipólito Rafael Chacón, art historian at the University of Montana and director of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

“Iron Tree” at Tippet Rise

Speaking to the Daily Montanan last week while watching the installation of the 20ft by 23ft by 23ft artwork, Hinmon said, “I’ll be right here when it goes up, so you might hear some noise in the background.”

The piece was created in 2013, he said, and has been on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England. Hinmon declined to disclose the purchase price, but said when it became clear the owners were going to sell, the center jumped at the opportunity to buy it.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park described the piece as “the largest and most complex sculpture to date in the artist’s tree series, which he began in 2009. Roots and trunks from different trees.”

Hinmon does not know of any plans that Ai Weiwei has to visit Tippet Rise, although he said the art center has been in touch with Ai’s studio. Regardless, the tree will make a unique mark at Tippet Rise beneath the Beartooth Mountains.

“Tipett Rise is mostly a grassland landscape naturally,” Hinmon said. “There aren’t many trees here.”

Initially, the sculpture might look like a real tree, he said. He believes the play emphasizes the ideals of protecting landscapes with trees and the importance, particularly in Montana, of helping environmental and climate issues.

“Many of the roles that trees play in our lives are becoming apparent and simply establish the deep appreciation many people have for trees,” Hinmon said. “

The tree’s joints are connected in a physical way, and there is no confusion that the parts are casts from different parts inspired by wood sold by street vendors in southern China, are bolted together, Hinmon said. Bringing different parts together is a theme that reflects China, which brings together different ideologies into a collective, and the different connections represent individualism.

The visually obvious way the Iron Tree is constructed also raises an interesting question, Hinmon said: “If we continually deplete our resources faster than we can save or replenish them, will we only have Iron Trees?”

Montana to China

Montana has historical and contemporary ties to China, said Chacon, a professor of art history and criticism at the University of Montana. He said the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center and the Baucus Institute at UM both play a role in relations with Asia, as does the state’s history.

“We had a robust Chinese community in Butte and even in Missoula,” he said.

The more well-known connections may be political in nature. As more recent examples, former US Senator Max Baucus, who gave the institute its name, served as ambassador to China, and US Senator Steve Daines worked in China in the early 1990s.

Regarding the arts connection, Chacon said that UM’s fine and media arts faculty worked in China, such as ceramist Trey Hill, and China’s Tu Baixong was among the key figures from Asia who worked in Montana and at UM.

“He held a torch for Chinese art in Missoula,” Chacon said. “So I think we’ve had our share of Chinese artists involved in the life of this city (Missoula) and the state.”

The Montana Museum of Art and Culture describes itself as home to one of the oldest and largest art collections in the Rocky Mountain Northwest, and construction of an $8 million building for the museum is underway at UM. The museum is scheduled to open in autumn 2023.

“China will feature prominently in the permanent collection of the new Montana Museum of Art and Culture,” said Chacon. “We have a lot of Chinese art, we have wonderful Chinese art. This collection only gets better as we accept these incredible donations that are coming in.”

As Ai Weiwei’s sculpture is erected on the east side of the continental divide, the museum “prepares for a grand unveiling” of a “knockout piece” from China at its opening in Missoula. Chacon said it will be the core of his exhibition of Asian art in the new collection.

“There is a unique masterpiece of Chinese art that will be unveiled in the new gallery at this time, and I think people will be very excited to see what this thing is, but it’s spectacular,” said Chacon. “It is a special gift to the Imperial Chinese Art Museum.”

Visit Tippet Rise

96 South Grove Creek Road
Fishtail, MT 59028

Tippet Rise will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10th June 2022 for self-guided walking and cycling tours on our 21km of trails. Pre-registration is required for all visitors and will be available on the walking and cycling page from April 13th, 2022.

On open houses, hikers and cyclists can arrive anytime after 9:00 am and must return to the main campus by 4:00 pm

Sign up for the e-newsletter to get the latest updates. To learn more about the 2022 season, please click here.

Notes from Tippet Rise:

About “Iron Tree”

New to Tippet Rise for 2022 is Ai Weiwei’s “iron tree” (2013). Dimensions 20.5′ x 23′ x 23′, “Iron Tree” stands on a hill and blends seamlessly into the landscape from afar. “Iron Tree” consists of 97 found tree elements that have been sculpted, cast in iron and fitted together using a classic Chinese joining method. It expresses the artist’s interest in fragments and the importance of the individual, without which the whole would not exist. It is reminiscent of earlier works by the artist “Tree” (2009 – 2010), in which different segments of felled trees were assembled into completely original shapes.

About Ai Weiwei

Contemporary artist Ai Weiwei is world-renowned for his timely and stunningly multi-faceted pieces across a range of mediums including sculpture, installation, film, performance and photography. His conceptual works make strong aesthetic statements that resonate with current phenomena in today’s geopolitical world. At Tippet Rise, his work “Iron Tree” stands on a hill and blends seamlessly into the landscape from afar. The work consists of 97 different iron elements interlocking with tenons and socket wrenches, symbolizing individualism within a larger society. Learn more at aiweiwei.com.

About Patrick Dougherty

Artist Patrick Dougherty is currently on site to redesign the exterior of his 2015 work Daydreams. Dougherty originally created Daydreams. at Tippet Rise in 2015, a sculpture made from molded and braided willow branches. The facility is partially enclosed and protected from the Montana elements by a recreation of a nearby frontier period schoolhouse, the Stockade School, meticulously designed by JxM contractor Max Anthon and built by Bozeman-based CTA Architects.

Ahead of Patrick’s arrival earlier this month, a group of local volunteers were working to collect thousands of willow branches from the area and strip them of their leaves so they could be soaked in water and turned into pliable weaving material. Patrick and his team have created several new spiral shapes to add to the work to create a new take on school day dreams.

About Mark di Suvero

“The Cry of the Whale” (1981-1983; 27′ x 25′ x 11′) by seminal artist Mark di Suvero is the artist’s third monumental work to be installed in Tippet Rise, alongside “Beethoven’s Quartet” (2003; 25′ x 30′ x 23′) and “Saying” (2002; 60’x25’x35′). “cry of the whale” is installed near Box Canyon, just off the Ecliptic Trail.

Ensamble Studio is also adding a new work entitled “Fold” (2022; various sizes), a row of 16 spooky chairs cast from malleable concrete canvas. These will be installed throughout the arts center including on site Ensemble Studio‘s other innovative works the 25-foot tall “Bear Tooth Portal” (2015); the similarly styled 26 foot tall “Reverse Portal” (2016); and the 98 foot long, 16 foot high “dome” (2016).

Leave a Comment