12 December 2022
Oh Christmas Tree…
18th Century Harewood house is nestled in the heart of Yorkshire. It has an art collection that rivals the finest in Britain and boasts over 100 acres of gardens, farm experience and rare bird garden.
This year, 11 makers, artists and designers have been invited to put a contemporary stamp on various rooms situated on the State Floor, with their contributions to the Long Live the Christmas Tree! exhibition. The artists, makers and designers have been asked to create ‘traditionally untraditional’ Christmas trees that echo the spirit and history of Harewood House utilising resources from the estate and beyond. Each installation is in a separate room and many of the designers have worked with natural and recycled materials.
The installations are a playful contrast against the backdrop of the building’s four walls, which are steeped in history and tradition.
Costume designer Hughbon Condor has gathered elements from different cultures to create his ‘One Love’ Christmas tree which celebrates cultural diversity.
‘Stackings’, a collaboration between Costa Rican artist Juli Bolaños-Durman and joiner Jonny Taylor is a tree-shaped tower made from reclaimed wood and glass bottles found in the community. Meanwhile artist Yaseman Hussein’s copper and crystal tree is symbolic of a radiant folklore goddess.
Straying beautifully from the brief, furniture designer Matthew Galvin of The Galvin Brothers has created ‘Of Happy Memory’, an interactive seating installation situated in the yellow drawing room, handcrafted from locally sourced ash and sprayed yellow to reflect the theme of the space. The spindles of the seating become vases for dried flowers and foliage. A place to sit, reflect, relax and share.
British set designer Simon Costin uses an abundance of antlers gathered from the estate for his piece, which fuses ideas of the Roman winter solstice and festivals of Saturnalia with Northern European Yuletide. The antlers are a symbol of growth and renewal whilst also giving a nod to Father Christmas and his reindeers.
Florist Swallows & Damsons’ ‘Luna’ is a giant wreath made almost entirely of mugwort and honesty, widely classed as weeds and foraged from the estate. A whimsical juxtaposition when considering the decadent history of the house.
Sculptor Phoebe McElhatton’s ‘Plaster Feast’ found in the old library is a spire adorned with body parts and food items, a reflection of the ceiling designed by Robert Adam, which is a vivid representation of celebration and feasting.
Set designer Meriel Hunt used oak, hazel and straw to create a bee house in the form of the Christmas tree to bring awareness to the plight of the bee. The ‘BeeTree’ will be relocated to the grounds once the exhibition closes.
Paper artist Andy Singleton’s design is ‘The Ribbon Tree’ and presents itself as a grand, ethereal and unfurling spiral.
Other contributors to the exhibition include various film and soundscape works intended to encompass the spirit of the festive season.
Jane Marriott, trust director oat Harewood House says of the project, "Long Live the Christmas Tree presents a unique version of the classic winter pine and spruce by 11 wonderful artists.
Harewood's ambition is to be bold and sometimes untraditional in our approach to commissioning artists, so we are delighted with the diverse, unexpected, joyful, thoughtful, and creative installations across the house."
Long Live the Christmas Tree! Is runnning until the 5th January 2023 at Harewood House, Harewood, Yorkshire.
Photography by Tom Arber.