“A work of art is not an object but the process”, says Christo. For close on fifty years, Christo and Jeanne-Claude – then Christo alone after the death of his wife – have wrapped and dressed monuments, sculptures and other sites in various materials. As they did so, they wrapped them too in mystery, arousing unsuspected aspects of interest in them and rendering them different apparitions of the same object.
For a retrospective of the most inspiring, head to ING Art Center in Brussels.
The exhibition “Urban Projects” retraces the pair’s creative process through an examination of 80 original pieces, from their first sketches to the final drawings. Considered a “path towards the real”, drawings have always played a major role in the couple’s work, one that Christo continues alone.
Three projects are examined closely. The first, The Pont Neuf Wrapped (1975–85), offered a completely new image to passersby of the oldest bridge in Paris when it was draped in golden polyamide fabric. Adopting a Hölderlinian perspective, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had the objective of encouraging viewers to “inhabit the world poetically” by embracing a new and more intense regard of their surroundings. “Revealing by concealing” is the essence of Christo’s art. The couple’s creations question aesthetic, technical and political matters, raising legal issues related to intellectual property. In French law, article L111-1, in particular, states that the “creator of a work of the mind shall enjoy in that work, by the mere fact of its creation, an exclusive incorporeal property right which shall be enforceable against all persons”. In Christo’s case, the Cour de Cassation in France confirmed that an intangible concept is not covered by the law, and that only the tangible (corporeal) form is eligible.
The ING Center’s retrospective highlights a second monument that enjoyed masterful packaging by the pair: the Reichstag, the emblem of reunified Germany. In this project, from 23 June to 7 July 1995, Christo was aiming at “verbal interactivity with the public” within a political, economic, moral and philosophical environment. In proposing this ephemeral work, the artist was praising the versatile freedom supposedly found in all social domains.
These same concepts epitomise the third project considered – The Gates, installed in Central Park, New York. For 16 days in February 2005, “a sort of luminous path” was mounted along 37 kilometres of walkways made of frames approximately 5 metres high, from which saffron-coloured fabric hung, creating a river of colour.