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Low-Hanging Fruit

Author Steffie Nelson Illustration Graham Roumieu


One Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the three men behind the art collective Fallen Fruit—best known for mapping the trees growing fruit in public places throughout L.A.—are putting the finishing touches on an exhibit called the “Food Pyramid.” Built from repurposed industrial food bins growing tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeno peppers, the pyramid will eventually yield the ingredients for a fish taco feast during the November closing ceremony, including the tilapia swimming in a pond at its base.

This monument to the Slow Food movement is just part of EATLACMA, a yearlong collaboration between the museum and Fallen Fruit, which was founded by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. It’s their first gig in an official space, and it’s a doozy, with exhibits such as “The Way Potatoes Go,” a potato field growing between two buildings; “Breeding Is Bittersweet,” a tunnel of melons growing on trellises; and “Indexical Strawberry Flag,” pallets of strawberry plants nourished through an elaborate system of IV bags near the main entrance.

They’ve also created a map of the museum that highlights the fruits found in the permanent collection, including works ranging from ancient Chinese ceramics to prints by 20th century Japanese artist Yozo Hamaguchi. According to Viegener, the apple reigns in popularity as a subject for artists, closely followed by the grape.

As befits a group whose events are traditionally free to the public, Fallen Fruit skipped the fancy opening night fête in favor of a Sunday picnic on LACMA’s lawn. “This is how it used to be a hundred years ago,” says Burns, happily surveying the noshing crowd, which includes local art luminaries and even the occasional activist/actor (Entourage’s Adrian Grenier stops in for a bite). The nature of Fallen Fruit’s events, Burns adds, keeps the people smiling and the vibe sweet. “It’s impossible to argue about fruit.”

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