This story is over 5 years old.


7 Levitating Artworks Cooler Than the Air Bonsai

Because floating mini-trees barely scratch the surface.

You may have seen the bonsai plant above floating in your news feed, either jammed down your throat via auto-playing Facebook video or enticingly advertized through your favorite design-minded news site or blog. The Air Bonsai aced current trends in sci-fi decór, plant-based art, and throwing magnets onto random objects, a flawless machine designed to surge through social media algorithms like a Ferrari on the Autobahn.


Going beyond the social media-friendly tchotchke, we've decided to take a look back at the artists and innovators who explored the technology and aesthetics of levitation so that Air Bonsai could shatter it's $80,000 Kickstarter goal, enter mass production heaven, and inevitably become the next great cubicle decoration for the coworker you don't know well enough to get creative with.

Tom Shannon's Floating City

Tom Shannon is an artist so ensconced in the world of design that he's not only done multiple TED Talks, but designed the TED Prize statue itself. He has been making sculptures magnetically levitate since 1987, and continues to push the medium through to the modern day. More recently he has patented plans for a floating video air ship called the Air Genie, inspired by the writings of Buckminster Fuller, that would float above a city and broadcast video projections for the masses.

Guy Bell's Levitating Pyramid

More recently than Shannon, Arkansas artist Guy Bell has taken the concepts of magnetic levitation into the world of surveillance, conspiracy theories, and the occult. Mounting a prosthetic eye with a working webcam onto his levitating pyramid, Bell's Ascension channels the mysticism and mystery surrounding the "All-Seeing Eye" on the back of the dollar bill and relates it to modern idolatry and the surveillance state—and looks awesome doing it.

Daniel Firman's Floating Fantasy Taxidermy

Courtesy the artist and The Pill Gallery

French artist Daniel Firman doesn't need magnets to defy gravity in his Nasutamanus sculpture series. He creates the illusion of a floating elephant in his iconic 2012 sculpture with a mix of fiberglass, polymer, and careful instruction from a taxidermist.


Marina Abramović's Kitchen

Screencap via

The image of performance art royal Marina Abromavić's spectral body floating in an old Spanish building for 2015's The Kitchen, her homage to Saint Teresa of Avila, is both haunting and uplifting. While not technically levitation—she's using wires and pulleys, rather than magnets or magic—she elevates the illustion by calling on on Saint Theresa's legacy as the "grandmother of performance art."

Hendo Hoverboards

Last year was the year levitation went mainstream, thanks in part to countless bids to replicate the hoverboard from Back to the Future II. One of the first and most successful attempts was by Hendo Hoverboards, who not only created a working hoverboard park, but got Tony Hawk to personally eat it on their half pipe.

Ao Gitsune + Artur's Minimalist Skull

Image courtesy the artist

If you must have a levitating cubicle decoration, make it Ankou Gold by French minimalist sculptor Ao Gitsune and collaborator Artur. With a legacy of experimental 3D printing and an interesting philosophy regarding how humans interact with the space around them, Gitsune's sculpture is as at home in an art gallery as a Skymall catalog.

MIT's ZeroN interface

The MIT Media Lab's experiments with magnetic levitation tickle the same sci-fi fancy as Air Bonsai, but put it to use. Their ZeroN interface can be controlled by either human or computer, and has applications as diverse as playing robot ping pong or physically communicating with a CPU.



Azuma Makoto's Near Space Bonsai

BONSAI #5868 Altitude : 25907m Temperature : -49.1°C

For years, Japanese artist Azuma Makoto has struggled to elevate bonsai and other plant sculpture to art world status. His snapshots of bonsai travelling the world trended just as hard as Air Bonsai, but are the culmination of a long, hard-won career.


Stunning Photos of a Bonsai Traveling the World

This Artist is Trapping Flowers in Blocks of Ice

The Art Of Levitation: 6 Photographers Who Feature Gravity-Defying Subjects

Magnetic Levitation Device Makes Any Object Float Like Magic