Giuseppe Penone (b. 1947)

Completed 2004-2007
Installed 2010

Granite boulders with steel and bronze
Height x length: 504 x 120 in. (1280.2 x 304.8 cm)

Located at Booth School of Business, Charles M. Harper Center
5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue

Artist Profile





“[Penone's] sculptures were metaphors of the ‘vitality’ and the cosmic power of the small details of nature, that nuance which regenerates itself in the flesh. Inside the works, nothing is determined or definite; everything develops and changes.”
Germano Celant, “Giuseppe Penone: Memories of a Contact,” Giuseppe Penone: The Hidden Life Within

Ideas of Stone—fondly known as “the tree”—is a large-scale, outdoor sculpture created by the Italian artist Giuseppe Penone in 2004, with eight granite rocks lodged in the branches that Penone carefully collected from a river near his home. At forty-two feet tall and over thirty tons, and with an additional base buried six feet underground, Ideas of Stone is one of the largest pieces in Penone's series of an unknown number of sculpted trees. Both sculpture and base are made from bronze, with a stainless steel core to provide structural support. Before coming to Chicago for installation in the courtyard of the Booth School of Business, this artwork stood in a small town in Penone's native Italy.

The work plays with the notion of legibility and exists as a double irony: on the one hand, despite its monumental size, the work is often mistaken for a real tree found in nature. The creation of the tree, however, actually involved a lengthy process of molding and casting, and called for great finesse from the artist. The rocks that create an uncanny effect and that serve as the cue to the work’s status as a piece of art, on the other hand, are the most natural part of the entire sculpture.


Written by Zhiyan Yang, a doctoral student in Art History


Related Links

Booth's Art Collection

How the University of Chicago Booth School Got An Amazing Art Collection (Chicago Magazine)


Busine, Laurent. Giuseppe Penone: Forty Years of Creation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.

Celant, Germano and John Bentley Mays. Giuseppe Penone: The Hidden Life Within. London, UK: Black Dog Publishing, 2013.

Interview with Professor Canice Prendergast, 1 May 2015.

Further Reading

Christov-Bakargiev, Carolyn. Arte Povera (Themes and Movements). London, UK: Phaidon Press, 2005.

Cullinan, Nicholas. “From Vietnam to Fiat-nam: The Politics of Arte Povera.” MIT Press, Spring 2008: 8-30.

Archival Materials

Photograph of Penone tree with Booth in the background

Photo by Chris Strong

Photograph of students admiring Ideas of Stone

Photograph of details at the base of the sculpture