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GaiaMotherTree by Ernesto Neto is a monumental installation in Zürich

GaiaMotherTree - Ernesto Neto - Foundation Beyeler

It has all started with a sketch on a paper napkin.

From there, a colorful tree of amazing proportions has emerged and is now embracing the main station in Zürich: GaiaMotherTree by Ernesto Neto.

But let me take it from the top: Ernesto Neto is one of South America's most important contemporary artists. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, his installations are on display in museums and galleries around the world. And one thing they have in common is that they can be touched, smelled, seen and felt in one way or another.

GaiaMotherTree inside the Zürich Main Station

When Ernesto Neto visited Zürich's main station more than four years ago, he had a "calling from the universe" to create a gigantic tree inside the historic Wanner Hall. Sketched on a paper napkin of Brasserie Federal, the tree took shape and would keep him busy ever since.

With Fondation Beyeler, Neto found the perfect partner as they are renowned for supporting art installations in public spaces. During the month of July 2018, there will be public talks and lectures, workshops, meditation sessions and music performances inside the tree.

GaiaMotherTree - Ernesto Neto - Foundation Beyeler

I have visited the GaiaMotherTree on a few occasions in order to wind down.

It really is an experience that is not to be missed and I would encourage anyone to stop by. At the entrance, simply kick off your shoes and let go of any worries for a few moments. Once inside, I suggest you lay on your back to observe the colorful threads and hanging objects. With some imagination, you may even perceive the subtle scent of the exotic herbs that are captured inside the hanging weights.

GaiaMotherTree - Ernesto Neto - Foundation Beyeler
GaiaMotherTree - Ernesto Neto - Foundation Beyeler

As for the interpretation of this monumental work of art, I will leave it up to you. Here are some clues: In the name, Neto is making a reference to Gaia, the mythological Greek goddess of Earth.

The shape of the tree reminds of the biblical Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And the entrance tunnel as well as the curvy wooden benches inside the tree are in the shape of snakes, possibly pointing at the story of Adam and Eve.

GaiaMotherTree - Ernesto Neto - Foundation Beyeler

Now for some fascinating facts about GaiaMotherTree by Ernesto Neto:

  • 10'220 meters of cotton garments have been tied by hand
  • 420 kilograms of spices and herbs were hung from the ceiling in order to balance the installation
  • 27 workers were busy for three months
  • 20 meters is how tall the tree stands
  • 4 years is how long the entire project took

More information and event listing

GaiaMotherTree - Ernesto Neto - Foundation Beyeler

(All photographs copyright Dominik Gehl.)


Dimitri Burkhard

As the founder, editor, and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of Swiss Travel Communicators. Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.

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Dimitri Burkhard

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