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Agnes Denes: The Living Pyramid

September 13, 2022 – January 13, 2023
Free entrance to gardens

Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Sakıp Sabancı Cad 42, Emirgan 34467 Istanbul

An installation by the Hungarian-born visual artist Agnes Denes presented in the garden of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum. Now based in New York, Denes is a pioneering eco-artist working with a wide range of media.

The nine-metre-tall wooden structure is filled with 600 different plant species from Istanbul’s native urban fauna (the province of Istanbul alone has greater diversity than the entire British Isles). Ten months on the pyramid has truly come into its own. A magnificent ‘work in progress’ one wishes it could just stay put. The museum has always been exemplary in its approach to gardening, every plant clearly tagged with its Latin name.

Denes, who is 92 this year, was described by the New York Times as ‘a kind of global gardener’. Among her most ambitious ‘earth works’ were A Living Time Capsule, 1996, an 11,000-conifer forest in Finland, and A Forest for Australia, 1998 – 6,000 native saplings planted in the form of five spiraling steps in Melbourne. She first constructed her pyramid in 2015 at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York. It then reappeared in Kassel in 2017. Filled with four tons of earth, each of its wooden terraces carefully planted out.

Next to the pyrmad, inscribed in marble for the museum, her Manifesto. It will become a permanent fixture in the museum’s glorious oasis of a garden.

MANIFESTO, by Agnes Denes, 1996

working with a paradox defining the elusive

visualizing the invisible

communicating the incommunicable

not accepting the limitations society has accepted

seeing in new ways

living for a fraction of a second and penetrating light years – measuring time in the extreme distances – long before and beyond living existence

using intellect and instinct to achieve intuition

striving to surpass human limitations by searching the mysteries and probing the silent universe, alive with hidden creativity

achieving total self-consciousness and self-awareness

probing to locate the center of things – the true inner core of inherent but not yet understood meaning – and expose it to be analyzed

being creatively obsessive

questioning, reasoning, analyzing, dissecting, and re-examining

understanding that everything has further meaning, that order has been created out of chaos, but order, when it reaches a certain totality must be shattered by new disorder and by new inquiries and developments

finding new concepts, recognizing new patterns

understanding the finitude of human existence and still strivingto create beauty and provocative reasoning

recognizing and interpreting the relationship of creative elements to each other: people to people, people to god, people to nature, nature to nature, thought to thought, art to art

seeing reality and still being able to dream

desiring to know the importance or insignificance of existence

persisting in the eternal search


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