Agnes Denes: “Wheat Field – A Confrontation”

When picturing New York City, one might visualize skyscrapers, Wall Street, bustling crowds, stock exchanges, and perhaps the amalgamation of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Agnes Denes challenged this image of New York City by planting and harvesting two acres of wheat on the Battery Park Landfill in Manhattan, 1982 right beside the borough’s city scape.


Denes titled this project “Wheat Field – A confrontation”. With two assistants and a handful of volunteers, Denes constructed the successful and lush wheat field on a landfill. The harvested grain was sent to twenty-eight cities around the world in the exhibition “International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”. The wheat also fed horses of the New York City Police. The wheat’s growth cycle lasted for four months before the location was reconstructed into a billion dollar luxury complex.


The wheat field appears to be a criticism toward humanities’ superiority complex with nature. It is a metaphor for nature’s potential, even in the dirtiest, unhealthiest of turfs. Denes believes that her project is a comment on a mismanagement of resources. After the completion of Wheat Field, Denes commented that “Manhattan closed itself once again to become a fortress”. This work draws attention to the power of human decision and the power of nature.



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