Dedication of Ai Weiwei's Cedar 2022 tree 

Today (16 May) saw the official dedication of Ai Weiwei’s Cedar 2022 tree artwork at Downing College.

The sculpture was gifted by Ai Weiwei and its inauguration was funded by the Howard Foundation. It is formed from branches of the old blue atlas cedar tree that stood in the East Lodge Garden for at least 200 years (dating back to the origins of the College), but which was sadly removed in Spring 2020 after becoming infected with a fungus that threatened other vulnerable species in its vicinity.

Cedar 2022, the spiritual successor of the old blue atlas, now stands in First Court, just outside The Heong Gallery, which hosted Ai Weiwei’s exhibition Cubes and Trees in June 2016. His sculptures, created from the branches, roots and trunks of felled trees, have long stood as reminders of trees lost.

The new Cedar has been dedicated to the memory of Dr Alan Howard (1929-2020), Downing alumnus and Honorary Fellow, who established the Howard Foundation in 1982.

The tree is dedicated with a plaque, which also commemorates Dr Howard as a nutritionist, as well as an alumnus and benefactor of the College.

Alan Bookbinder, Master of Downing College, said: “The new cedar tree is a welcome addition to the College landscape. We thank the artist Ai Weiwei for building it and the Howard Foundation for funding it.”

Jon Howard (1974), Secretary of the Howard Foundation, said: "Howard Foundation is a founder patron of the Heong, and through our trustees we have avidly followed its varied exhibitions. We were offered, and jumped, at the chance to sponsor what has become Cedar 2022 by Ai Weiwei, in memory of our own founder, Alan Howard, who died aged 91 at around about the same time as the original tree!

"I’m sure the tree will become a College icon, forming as it does a focal point to First Court. Thanks are due to the College for putting on a display of the history of the project, and a reception for our guests. It was a memorable day.”

Published 16 May 2023