California-based artists Fallen Fruit (David Allen Burns and Austin Young), make public art which explores the role of fruit in creating shared culture. By foraging depictions of fruit from the V&A's collection, they have created two unique installations for the exhibition 'FOOD: Bigger than the Plate', inviting us to experience the museum and its surroundings as fruitful places.
The ground in London's South Kensington where the V&A now stands was once planted with fruit trees. From 1681, until the museum was built in 1857, this was the site of a famous nursery that supplied trees to gardens around the country. In response to this history, Fallen Fruit have created a bespoke 12-metre-squared wallpaper that brings a colourful burst of fruit back into the space of the museum.
The wallpaper design draws on the museum's collections and the horticultural history of the site. To create it, the artists visited our Prints and Drawings study room and foraged for images of fruits that grow in the UK, within our collections.
We typically create our patterns with photographs of fruits and flowers that we discover along the pavements and pathways of a particular city. In this case we selected prints and drawings of fruits, insects and birds from the V&A collection – another kind of public space.
David and Austin were particularly inspired by the V&A's collection of botanical illustrations, rare books and wallpapers, including Pop Art patterns from the 1960s, as they explained: "We wanted the wallpaper to look historical and also use the language of Pop Art". From these varied sources, they developed a collaged pattern of photographs. Entitled Fruits from the Garden and the Field, the final work references a book of the same title from 1850, held in the National Art Library, with botanical illustrations by Owen Jones, an influential 19th century designer and key figure in the museum's history.
The finished piece highlights the cultural resonance of fruit and inspires us to re-imagine the city as a generous and productive public space.
We consider this work to be a portrait of the V&A that also represents the legacies of the gardens and orchards that predate the development of Kensington.
Fallen Fruit also map the locations of fruit trees and actively plant trees in public spaces to encourage people to interact with cities and each other. For the exhibition, they have created a series of hand-drawn 'fruit maps' which plot the locations of fruit trees growing on, or overhanging, public space in London.
As the capital expanded in the 1850s, agricultural land gave way to cultural institutions (including the museum), and a bold new vision of what a city could be. By drawing attention to communal edible resources in London today, the maps prompt us to start re-thinking the city and its culture once more.
Along pathways, pavements and alleys we discover dozens of trees that provide fresh organic, sustainable, free fruit.
You can take part in Fallen Fruit's collective mapping and planting experience, the Endless Orchard, which explores the meaning of community through creating and sharing fruit trees: "Plant a fruit tree near your home. Share your fruit!". You can also join David and Austin for collage-making activities at the museum's Imagination Station throughout May half-term.
Find out more at fallenfruit.org
Fallen Fruit is an art collaboration originally conceived in 2004 by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. Since 2013, David Burns and Austin Young have continued the collaborative work.