Two acres of wheat were planted and harvested by the artist on the Battery Park landfill, in New York’s financial district, one block from Wall Street and the World Trade Center in the summer of 1982.
After months of preparations, in May of 1982, a wheat field was planted on a landfill in lower Manhattan, facing the Statue of Liberty. Two hundred truckloads of dirt were brought in and two hundred eighty-five furrows were dug by hand, cleared of rocks and garbage. The seeds were sown by hand and the furrows covered with soil. The field was maintained for four months, cleared of wheat smut, weeded, fertilized, and sprayed against mildew fungus. An irrigation system was set up. The crop was harvested on August 16 and yielded over 1,000 pounds of healthy, golden wheat.
Planting and harvesting a field of wheat on land worth $4.5 billion created a powerful paradox. It was a symbol, a universal concept that represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns. It called attention to our greed and misplaced priorities.
The harvested grain traveled to twenty-eight cities around the world in an exhibition called “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger,” organized by the Minnesota Museum of Art (1987–90). The seeds were carried away by people who planted them in many parts of the globe.
P.S. The above text written in 1982 has now added poignancy and relevance after 9/11/01.
© Agnes Denes