Neukom Vivarium

Photo: Paul Macapia

Neukom Vivarium

design approved 2004; fabrication completed 2006

Mark Dion

American, born 1961

Neukom Vivarium is a hybrid work of sculpture, architecture, environmental education and horticulture that connects art and science. Sited at the corner of Elliott Avenue and Broad Street, it features a sixty-foot-long "nurse log" in an eighty-foot-long custom-designed greenhouse. Set on a slab under the glass roof of the greenhouse, the log has been removed from the forest ecosystem and now inhabits an art system. Its ongoing decay and renewal represent nature as a complex system of cycles and processes. Visitors observe life forms within the log using magnifying glasses supplied in a cabinet designed by the artist. Illustrations of potential log inhabitants-bacteria, fungi, lichen, plants, and insects-decorate blue and white tiles that function as a field guide, assisting visitors' identification of "specimens."  Neukom Vivarium is the artist's first permanent public art work in the United States.

Neukom Vivarium Hours

Mark Dion’s Neukom Vivarium is open on Saturdays and Sundays under volunteer supervision. For more information, please email

Mixed media installation
Greenhouse structure length: 80 ft. (24.38 m)
Gift of Sally and William Neukom, American Express Company, Seattle Garden Club, Mark Torrance Foundation and Committee of 33, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum
Provenance: Commissioned from the artist by Seattle Art Museum (funds from donors), 2003-2007
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Olympic Sculture Park

My art asks you to think about both nature and sculpture not as objects, but as processes.

Mark Dion


Published ReferencesDo Not Destroy, Trees Art and Jewish Thought an Exhibition and the Dorothy Saxe Invitational,Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, 2012, pg. 84

Ishikawa, Chiyo, ed. "A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum." Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2007, illus. p. 114-115

PAD, Public Art Dialogue, Special Issue: Site Variations, Volume 1, Number 2, September 2011 by Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, UK. pg. 232,234

Boetzkes, Amanda, "The Ethics of Earth Art", 2010, Regents of University of Minnesota, page 1

Kangas, Matthew, "Sculpture", October 2007, Vol 26, No. 8

Ishikawa, Chiyo et al. "Seattle Art Museum Downtown." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 2007, illus. p. 24

Corrin, Lisa Graziose et al. "Olympic Sculpture Park." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 2007, illus. pp. 54-55

Stecher, Shannon Marie. An Artist’s Collaboration with Art, Nature, and a Museum (unpublished M.A. thesis—Harvard University, 2007)

Kennedy, Beverly, "Other Sustainable Voices, Other Unnatural Rooms", Observer, the Magazine of the University of Hartford. Spring 2008, pp. 6

Kalb, Peter R. Art Since 1980: Charting the Contemporary. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2013; p. 289, reproduced fig. 11.8

Cleary, Sally Dr. "The Nature of Things: Reinterpreting the Still Life Genre in the 21st Century." Ph.D. diss., RMIT University, 2014, p. 157, fig. 90.

Cruz, Barbara C., et al. Mark Dion's Troubleshooting: Empowering Students to Create and Act. Alexandria: National Art Education Association, 2013; p. 33, reproduced.

Robertson, Jean and Craig McDaniel. Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art Afetr 1980, 5th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2022; p. 154, reproduced fig. 4.12.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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