As early as 1971, Christo (13 June 1935) and his Moroccan-born French wife Jeanne-Claude (13 June 1935-18 Nov. 2009) had the German Reichstag in view for one of their unusual environmental sculpture projects. Their various attempts to secure a license for an art project that would not cost the host a cent – all Christo’s projects have been self-funded – were fruitless. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the restitution of Berlin as Germany’s capital, the local historian Michael Cullen, who had originally suggested to Christo that project, helped mount a massive lobbying campaign. The fact that the building still required a profound overhaul before it could once more be used as “Bundeshaus” weighted the debate in favour of the project. At last, on February 25, 1994, the day had come for the final vote:
The employment of Art, so Peter Conradi (Socialist Party-SPD) argued, could not be decided by political delegates who were biased by their personal tastes – Art was, in that sense, “unvoteable”. When consulting the experts in this field, their opinions were overwhelmingly in favour of the project. Their reasons:
- Aesthetics: a wrapped Reichstag obliges to look at a familiar cityscape from a new angle – “revelation through concealment”;
- Art History: Christo’s artistic creations are part of mainstream contemporary Art;
- Significance: lasting only a fortnight, the exhibit of the wrapped building makes the spectators aware of the temporary / the ephemeral, while the large media coverage of the action makes sure that such impression will not be easily forgotten;
- Public involvement: all of Christo’s projects evolve over a long period of time and include the public from the beginning through frequent media debates – he creates for and with the public.
Other favourable arguments concerned the absence of costs, temporary employment for a number of people, the project’s possible significance at this particular juncture in Germany’s history: as a symbol of a new beginning, associated with the creation’s image of a unified Germany (represented by the future House of Parliament) that spoke of peace and harmony. The final vote: 292 in favour of the project, 223 against, 9 abstentions and 1 invalid vote – Christi and his wife Jeanne-Claude could finally put their plans into action.
From April to June 1995, over 1,000 people mounted 200,000 kg of steel for the frame, and over 100,000 m of silver-coated fabric, tailor-made, which was held in place by 15,600 m of light blue rope. All was ready for public display on Sunday, 25 of June, 1995 – a transformation that yielded a spectacular view lasting two weeks.
Here is a quickmotion film of the construction. For further details consult:
- Tate: Lost Art
- The New York Times: Christo’s Wrapped Reichstag
- The official site of Christo and Jeanne-Claude
- Article by Harvard scholar Beatrice Hanssen
- Stanford Presidential Lectures: Christo and Jeanne-Claude
- Protocol of the Parliamentary Debate, 25 Feb. 1994 (in German)
Source: Christo and Jeanne-Claude