The Living Pyramid

May 17, 2015 – October 31, 2015

Opening: May 17, 2015 (3:00 pm – 6:00 pm)

Artists: Agnes Denes

Socrates Sculpture Park is pleased to present the latest major project by New York City-based artist Agnes Denes, who adds life to the city’s skyline with a curving pyramid on the park’s East River waterfront in Long Island City, Queens. Titled The Living Pyramid, Denes’s new large-scale, site-specific earthwork spans 30 feet at its four-sided base and ascend 30 feet high, created from several tons of soil and planted grasses.

Commissioned by Socrates Sculpture Park, The Living Pyramid is the artist’s first major public artwork in New York City in three decades since her iconic urban intervention, Wheatfield – A Confrontation in 1982. Very few artists can fulfill the moniker of “visionary” and fewer still can match Agnes Denes in breadth, scope, outrageousness, and perseverance. Her work is the product of a fiercely intellectual and distinctive study of semiotics, epistemology, mathematics, history, and ecology, which are grounded in philosophical inquiry and social observation.


The Living Pyramid at Socrates unites Agnes Denes’s powerful environmental interventions with her ongoing exploration and invention of pyramid structures – a form that has been central to the artist’s practice throughout her long and distinguished career. For nearly five decades Denes has used the pyramid both structurally and conceptually to examine environmental priorities and social hierarchies. In the Realm of the Pyramids: The Visual Philosophy of Agnes Denes, the first solo exhibition exclusively devoted to her imaginative investigations of this iconic form, leading to the publication of the THE PYRAMID BOOK, recently took place at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects in New York City from March 14 – May 9, 2015.

For the first time this spring, Agnes Denes’s visual pyramid concepts have been manifested as site-specific, participatory public art.

On May 17th, Socrates invited the public to become part of the installation during a participatory volunteer planting, coinciding with the park’s spring opening and New York’s Frieze Art Fair. Since then, the tens of thousands of seeds sprouted into grasses and wildflowers and The Living Pyramid will continue to grow and evolve.

We are incredibly grateful to everyone who brought this pyramid to life, especially the artist, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, Plant Specialists, John Michael Ameroso of Cornell University, and Silman structural engineers, with special thanks to our crew.

View The Living Pyramid catalog

View the full press release.

Agnes Denes (b. 1931 in Budapest, based in New York) is a leading figure in American conceptual art and a pioneer of environmental/ecological art who rose to international attention in the Sixties and Seventies. Over the course of a pioneering, far-ranging career, she has employed a broad spectrum of languages and media to explore science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, poetry, history, and music, in an artistic practice that weds aesthetics to social engagement. Her works, which are often on a monumental scale, bring together ecological, cultural and social concerns, forging an incredibly powerful dialogue between art, nature, and science. Denes has had over 500 exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world; she is also the author of numerous publications and the recipient of prestigious awards such as four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, among others. She was a Fellow at MIT and Carnegie Mellon University and received honorary doctorates from Bucknell University and Ripon College.

The Living Pyramid was made possible, in part, with major support from the David Rockefeller Fund to honor founder David Rockefeller on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

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The park’s 2015 Exhibition Program is supported, in part, with generous funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Charina Foundation, Mark di Suvero, Sidney E. Frank Foundation, Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, Jerome Foundation, Agnes Gund, Lambent Foundation, Ronay and Richard Menschel, Ivana Mestrovic, The New York Community Trust, Plant Specialists, the David Rockefeller Fund, Shelley and Donald Rubin, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Smith, Spacetime C. C.; and contributions from our Board of Directors.

These programs are funded, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the New York State Legislature and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

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