Death of the palm tree
Project commissioned by UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre
On June 1, 2019 Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue installation by Joanna Rajkowska—a palm tree standing on the Charles de Gaulle roundabout in the heart of Warsaw—changed out of recognition. Its top has turned ash-grey, the leaves have dried out and are falling.
The Polish climate has always been considered to be too harsh for palm trees. So it’s no wonder that the country’s only free-standing palm tree is… artificial. This work of art has towered over the busy centre of Warsaw since 2002 and is now considered one of the city’s symbols. But recently the Warsaw Palm has been shrivelling. The top has turned ash-grey, the leaves have dried out and are falling. The transformation of the palm tree aims to draw attention to air pollution and global climate change as part of the actions taken during the World Environment Day. It calls for changes in everyday activities to prevent environmental degradation in order to Beat Air Pollution.
Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue (2002) is the most iconic Polish artistic project in public space since 1989. It originated from Rajkowska’s visit to Israel, which made her realize the void left by the absence of the Jewish community in Poland and the significance of the history and etymology of Aleje Jerozolimskie to Warsaw identity.
Since its beginnings, the palm tree has sparked extreme emotions. But eventually it became one of the new symbols of Warsaw, both exotic and familiar, provoking and energizing. It is an anchor point for protests, manifestations and happenings. In the situation of deepening anthropogenic climate change, the exotic tree became a sign of crisis, a warning sign placed in the center of Warsaw.
The 2019 death of the palm tree is a project commissioned by UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre and run by the artist Joanna Rajkowska in collaboration with Syrena Communications, supported by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. The transformation of the palm tree aims to draw attention to air pollution and global climate change as part of the actions taken during the World Environment Day. It will last through June 14, 2019.
The archive of the Greetings from the Jerusalem Avenue is part of the The Archives of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, a project of digitalisation and presentation of archives of the artistic practices after 1945. The installation itself remains in the deposit of the Museum.