The Rockwell Museum unveiled a surprise acquisition Thursday morning, announcing that Sam Van Aken’s “Tree of 40 Fruit #87” is on permanent display in the Thomas Buechner Park, across the street from The Rockwell on Denison Parkway.
The piece is highly unusual in that it is the first living acquisition ever to be a part of the Museum’s collection.
True to its name, the tree – which was actually planted somewhat in secret in October 2018 and has been cared for diligently ever since – will ultimately bear 40 different types of fruit. It currently has the ability to produce:
· Three types of apricots
· Two types of cherries
· A nectarine
· Two types of peaches
· A pluot
· Three Asian plums
· Five European plums
“Since this acquisition is a living artwork, it allows us to establish a long-term relationship with the artist,” said Rockwell Curator of Collections Kirsty Buchanan. “Sam Van Aken will be on-site regularly to tend to the tree and bring it to its ultimate, impressive fruition.”
Van Aken created the living installation by grafting different varieties of stone fruit upon a single trunk to create a specific aesthetic vision. He searches for rare antique and heirloom varieties which include almonds, in addition to those listed above. Many are considered “forgotten” varieties, no longer commercially grown.
The sculpting process takes approximately five years, allowing time for each new season of grafts to successfully take to the tree. The Rockwell’s tree is the 87th in a series Van Aken has planted around the country. It was purchased with funds donated by Jeff Evenson and Karyn Cepek, Thomas Halgash and Laura Coleman, and the Clara S. Peck fund.
Members of the public can view the tree any time in the public Buechner Park and learn more about the installation inside The Rockwell Museum.