Press Release

Tate Britain Christmas Tree 2009: Weihnachtsbaum by Tacita Dean

Tate Britain  Rotunda
11 December – 23 December 2009

Tate Britain has commissioned Tacita Dean to create its Christmas tree for 2009, entitled Weihnachtsbaum. It will be on display at Tate Britain from 11 – 23 December 2009. Dean has created a traditional and yet quietly contemplative response to the commission, selecting a 4 metre high Nordman Fir to stand in the centre of the gallery’s Rotunda. This has been decorated with hand-dipped beeswax candles which have been made especially for the work. Each afternoon at 16:00, as the sun sets and light fades from the gallery, the candles will be lit one by one. Illuminating the tree for approximately two hours, the candles are designed to burn out as the gallery closes at 18:00.

Tacita Dean said “I was struck when I arrived in Berlin by the simplicity of Christmas there. I felt the Germans had managed to hold onto something of its purity and magic despite commercial pressures. They have a great tradition of Christmas decorations and are still unafraid to have real candles on their trees. It was fascinating to learn that the origin of the bauble stemmed from the spherical weight hanging beneath the holder that kept the candle upright. As many of my films encompass twilight and the transition from day to night, it seems appropriate to light the candles at this moment of each day.”

In its appearance, the work chimes with time-honoured ideas of what a Christmas tree should be. The candle-light evokes a sense of magic and wonder in the centre of Tate Britain’s neo-classical Rotunda, and the performative act of lighting the tree each afternoon is at once simple and theatrical, echoing the rituals of Christmas. Tacita Dean’s work often seeks connections between past and present. Her subtle explorations of time and place conjure up a sense of history, memory and longing.

A leading artist of her generation Tacita Dean (b. 1965) currently lives in Berlin.  She works in a variety of media, most notably 16mm film, but also drawing, photography and sound. Dean studied at Falmouth School of Art and The Slade School of Fine Art, and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1998 and has just received the Kurt Schwitters Prize 2009 at the Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany. She has participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide and her latest film, Craneway Event (2009), her second collaboration with Merce Cunningham, was premiered at PERFORMA 09 in New York in November.

This is the twenty-second year that Tate has invited a leading contemporary artist to create a Christmas tree for the gallery. Previously commissioned artists are: Bob and Roberta Smith (2008), Fiona Banner (2007), Sarah Lucas (2006), Gary Hume (2005), Richard Wentworth (2004), Mark Wallinger (2003), Tracey Emin (2002), Yinka Shonibare (2001). Catherine Yass (2000), Mat Collishaw (1999), Richard Wilson (1998), Michael Landy (1997), Julian Opie (1996), Cornelia Parker (1995), Cathy de Monchaux (1994), Shirazeh Houshiary (1993), Craigie Aitchison (1992), Boyd Webb (1991), Lisa Milroy (1990), Tim Head (1989) and Bill Woodrow (1988).