Christo Reichstag 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Christo rarely does things by halves. To date, the renowned environmental artist has carried out some of the world’s grandest artistic projects, including wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin with more than 100,000 square meters of fireproof polypropylene fabric and installing no fewer than 7,503 saffron fabric gates all over New York’s Central Park. And if that wasn’t enough, Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude divided the Rifle Gap valley in the Colorado section of the Rocky Mountains. All Christo’s gigantic works have proven to be hugely successful with, for example, over 5 million people visiting the Reichstag installation.
Naturally, Tel Aviv’s Sissman Gallery doesn’t have the room for such large-scale works but it is housing a number of smaller Christo originals, plus various forms of documentation of his better known, more expansive creations.
While the 75-year-old, Bulgarian-born US resident was not on hand for the opening, one of his longest serving collaborators did visit the gallery; German printer-politician Dr. Alexander Fils was in town to get a firsthand look at how the exhibition was panning out here.
“I own the oldest publishing house in Germany,” explains Fils in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
. “It was founded in 1870 and I am the fifth generation to run it. I have been Christo’s publisher for 25 years and he calls me part of his working family.”
While Fils contests the environmental epithet attached to Christo’s work he says the artist has a strong bond with nature and land and that, ultimately, his works provoke the public to take another look at everyday landscapes and objects and, hopefully, rethink their attitude towards them.
“There is no direct link between Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work and actual ecological aspects, but they have a very positive attitude towards this issue,” he says. “For instance, they make sure the materials they use are recycled.”
FILS ALSO notes that Christo is always willing to rethink his approach to a work if he discovers it can be done in a more environmentally friendly way. “The gates in Central Park, for instance, were originally going to be attached to posts which would have been embedded in the ground. But then environmentalists said that could disturb underground life, so Christo laid out a large sum of money to get the steel bases fitted to the gateposts so they wouldn’t have to be inserted into the soil.” In fact, everyone won out in the end. “Christo bought the posts in 2003 when steel was cheap and sold the steel for recycling in 2006, when the price of steel had doubled. So, you see, it can really pay to go green.”
While an artist is presumably always delighted when a work comes to fruition, Christo is also very much involved in the process and gleans great satisfaction from the preparatory stages, too – however long they may last. The Reichstag project certainly falls into that category; Christo worked on the project on and off for over two decades, planning the logistics and taking numerous elements into consideration. Part of the latter was the political shenanigans which went on in the German parliament before the project finally got the green light in 1994.
“The night before the vote on the Reichstag project I asked Christo if
he would be disappointed if they rejected the project,” Fills recalls.
“He said, not at all, and that it had been wonderful to work on it for
24 years, discussing it with literally tens of thousands of people
along the way. That was an integral part of the work itself – the
For his part, gallery owner Yossi Sissman is just delighted to have
Christo’s work at his establishment, and in the country. “This is an
important exhibition,” he says. “I have the sense that not enough
international art is brought to Israel. Collectors have become
conservative – we need to open up to stuff from abroad, to different
concepts and working principles.”
But there are more universal aspects, too, he adds. “Christo works off
nature and, through his work, he shows us how fragile we are in the
face of the forces of nature. It is a sobering and uplifting lesson.”The display is ongoing until May 28 at the Sissman Gallery, Rehov Hayarkon 98, Tel Aviv.