#187: Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees

Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees in Lower Manhattan is a piece of public art that was given as a gift to the people of New York City. Question is, […]


Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees in Lower Manhattan is a piece of public art that was given as a gift to the people of New York City. Question is, is it art or an over sized cartoon?

In 1969, David Rockefeller commissioned Jean Dubuffet to create a sculpture to be placed in front of the Chase Manhattan Building. Towering above visitors, The Group of Four Trees is a whimsical curvy artwork that was created in Dubuffet’s signature loopy, childlike style. A black and white sculpture that contrasts with the straight modernist lines of the Chase Manhattan building. A fantasy contrast before entering the bank, it was intended to place images, elements or reminders of nature in an urban setting.

The Group of Four Trees is actually part of a larger group of pieces that Dubuffet called “L’Hourloupe.” In describing the meaning of this invented term, Dubuffet explained that the word implies “some wonderland or grotesque object or creature,” and that it “evokes something rumbling and threatening with tragic overtones”. He went on to describe the pieces of L’Hourloupe as “the figuration of a world other than our own, or parallel to ours”. Rather than defining the pieces as sculptures, Dubuffet called them “drawings which extend and expand in space”

At the unveiling of Group of Four Trees in 1972, Dubuffet was pleased with the location of his sculpture. He explained, “I do not believe that these four trees, which I hope will not be taken as representations of real trees, but as semblances of the thrust and fertility of human thought, bear contradiction in any way to the site upon which they now stand. They give an impression of feverish intoxication. But they seem to me, by this same febrility, to manifest the ardent source of the enormous intellectual machinery of which this plaza is the core.”

Whether you like it or not, the Group of Four Trees will make you stop and ponder, unique art or just a giant colouring book of a tree? I’ll let you decide.

Group of Four Trees 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, New York, NY 10005

Dubuffet Four Trees

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