Klaus Littmann, FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature (2019), Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria (photo by Gerhard Maurer)

A curious ecological art exhibition has opened in Austria. Curator Klaus Littmann has filled a soccer stadium with 299 living trees, inspired by “The Unending Attraction of Nature,” a 1970/71 drawing by Austrian artist and architect Max Peintner. The sketch shows a thicket growing from the pitch of a sports stadium, with thousands of people watching in the stands. Littmann has crafted a near-perfect replica for the exhibition FOR FOREST The Unending Attraction of Nature, installed in the 30,000-seat Wörthersee Stadium in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt.

Image credit Max Peintner, “The Unending Attraction of Nature”, pencil drawing, 1970/71, hand-coloured by Klaus Littmann in 2018, unique print from series

“I first saw the picture 30 years ago and was fascinated by Max Peintner’s vision that one day we would only be able to view nature in assigned locations, in crater-like buildings,” Littmann told German publication DW. “The wonderful title of the painting, The unbroken attraction of nature, expresses a longing. And I’m not ruling out that the world could further evolve in that direction.”

A drone image of Klaus Littmann’s FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature (2019) in contrast to the surrounding city (photo by UNIMO)

However, The exhibition has drawn the ire of two rightwing parties — Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) — who falsely claim the installation is funded by tax dollars. DW reports that BZÖ urged people to show up outside the stadium in the day of the exhibition’s September 8 opening with chainsaws. The exhibition is now closely guarded.

Artnet reports that in addition to verbal attacks chastising the project, Littmann was accosted on the street and pushed into traffic by a vexed individual who shouted: “Go away and take your shitty forest!”

Klaus Littmann’s FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature (2019) in Wörthersee Stadium is lit by floodlights after dark (photo by Gerhard Maurer)

Littmann believes the political backlash is based on the support he has received from Klagenfurt’s mayor, Maria-Luise Mathiaschitz, who is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). “That’s why the rejection of my project has nothing to do with the installation in terms of content,” the curator says. 

Adding to the contention, he says, “Wolfsberger AC, a club from the region, slipped into the Europa League and suddenly wanted to use the stadium for their games. But of course that was no longer possible because our project was already well underway. Political parties picked that up and instrumentalized the issue in their election campaigns.” He adds that “[t]he stadium cost nearly €100 million and the population is still paying for it; it’s still an extreme burden on the city budget and for the citizens.”

A drone image of Klaus Littmann’s FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature (2019) (photo by UNIMO)

In spite of the ongoing backlash, Littmann asserts that the stadium is now safe to visit. His hope for the project is that the living artwork will attract wildlife, and change with the seasons as autumn approaches.

“I have been working on this idea for 30 years, and the fact that it landed right on the dot amid this whole climate discussion feels a bit eerie to me,” he says. “ […] I am producing a radical image through relatively simple means: by taking something and setting it in a new context, it challenges people’s perception. I want them to reflect on how they deal with nature.”

Klaus Littmann, FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature (2019), Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria (photo by Gerhard Maurer)

FOR FOREST – The Unending Attraction of Nature is on view at Wörthersee Stadium through October 27, 2019. It will then be replanted at a public site.

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Jasmine Weber

Jasmine Weber is an artist, writer, and former news editor at Hyperallergic. Follow her on Instagram and

7 replies on “A Living Forest Planted in a Soccer Stadium Incites Rightwing Backlash”

  1. While the article correctly points out the mis-focused ire (in terms of the allocation of funds) of the right-wing anti-art sports fanatic, who favours destruction (chainsaws) over simple co-existence, I already had critiqued this project (albeit from a different angle and only in my own mind) that questions the grandiosity of certain art projects which purport to be ecologically friendly or topical, but which sees a living thing (trees) shifted from here and there (in the short term) for the sole benefit of “the viewer” and the artist’s “concept” . . . I mean, these are living things (trees) and surely are stressed by being uprooted, replanted, uprooted again (when the installation is over) and then replanted (somewhere outside the stadium). Practically speaking, no one is going to be interested in, or follow up, on the health of these trees beyond an initial “cool” after seeing them installed in the stadium.

  2. “Flashpoint,” “backlash,” “rightwing” – the magazine’s name is HYPERALLERGIC, not CLICHE’-SODDEN HYPERBOLIC.

  3. As an outside party, I appreciate the idea of a carefully constructed forest as a spectator sport. It is a controlled, and still experience for sure, which runs antithetical to the sports community who values conflict, action and movement. The tension of man vs. nature is quite clear.

    1. Actually, a lot of people do go out and spectate trees, ‘nature’, and other such phenomena; or they do if there are any left. The sites where they do these things are often called ‘parks’. People tend not to go to see ‘nature’ in a stadium-like structure since much better alternatives are available, ones that allow the audience to actually get close to a tree. The détournement of the stadium is rather a very expensive hipster joke at the public’s expense and thus red meat for right-wing populists. One wonders if the elites who cook up these projects intend that result.

  4. Never heard of the town. Will be a tv show and a movie. Prepare for when it is taken away. Make a new game besides war played in the forest. Looks great in photograph. Photographs are art & fine art at that. looo.00s a print sounds good to me. make people buy the photos for real money. . I am down with it.

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