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Environment / Climate change

Conceptual artist Christo is building a giant floating walkway across an Italian lake

Remember the time someone wrapped the whole Reichstag in fabric? Or the time the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris was wrapped in sand-coloured cloth for two weeks? 

Both were the work of Christo and Jean-Claude, two married artists famed for, well, wrapping stuff up in fabric. Jean-Claude died in 2009, but now Christo is forging ahead with his first major solo project, and perhaps his biggest yet: a two mile set of walkways over Italy’s fourth-largest lake, covered with 70,000 square metres of yellow fabric.

The 16m-wide walkway would stretch from Sulzano, a town on the mainland, to the large island of Monte Isola and the Isola di San Paolo, a tiny privately owned island:

Image: Christo.

Incidentally, the private island is so swish we would probably attempt to walk on water to get to it: 

Image: Google.

The fabric would also stretch along 1.5km worth of pedestrian paths in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio on Monte Isola. It would stand for just over two weeks in June 2016. 

As you may guess, wrapping landmarks or piers in fabric is no easy feat. Wrapping the Reichstag required the help of 90 professional climbers, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrote letters to or visited all 662 of the Parliament’s delgates to convince them to allow the artwork to go ahead. At the moment, Christo is also trying to cover a river in Arkansas with a fabric canopy, but is under fire from a local environmental group opposing the project. 

And one can only imagine the regulatory and logistical issues involved with surrounding eleven islands in Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, with hot pink polypropylene, back in 1983:

Image: Christo.

The effort both artists put in over the years is all the more amazing because they weren’t usually paid for their huge public artworks. They raised funds through selling drawings of the proposals and other artworks, and often fell into debt as a result of their huge, audacious, and yet temporary pieces. 


But, as Christo once told an art critic, the pieces’ ambition and transience is kind of the point:

Do you know that I don’t have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they’re finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.
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