Sunday, March 19, 2006

Christo's Gates in Zurich

Credit Suisse, one of the two large Swiss banks, is currently undergoing a re-branding campaign. To create the fuzzy warm feeling that's needed get people to entrust them with their fortunes, they built an gigantic temporary exhibition hall in a prime location of Zurich to show an exhibition of last year's The Gates installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Manhattan.

I have always been skeptical about Christo's projects, since they seem like such a waste: Thousands of gates and tons of fabric were manufactured for their New York project. Apparently, much of this gets recycled, but only after lots of using up lots of energy.

Still, this exhibition shows that Christo's projects do leave a lasting impression, not by their physical permanence but by becoming a part of the public memory. The images of floating fabric in Central Park are indeed beautiful and the orange color of the gates stands in brilliant contrast to the surrounding winter city landscape, especially in some helicopter shots.

My personal conclusion is that Christo's art is actually "lobbying art": Sure, designing the wrappings and gates is highly demanding artistic work. However, the greatest achievement is getting approval for their projects. For the Pont-Neuf project, it took them 10 years until they got approval from the mayor of Paris (then Jacques Chirac). In New York, they started lobbying the Parks Commission and touring the community boards in 1979 to get permissions.

To have the energy and dedication to convince the 'conservative opposition' of the benefits of their projects requires a blindingly strong vision.

The exhibition also contained a screening of a video about the artists' Pont-Neuf project. The most memorable part of it is where two middle-aged Parisians are loudly arguing about whether or not the bridge's wrapping constitutes art. One of the men closes the scene by saying: "You and me, we don't know each other. We have never met. If the bridge hadn't been wrapped, we wouldn't ever have talked to each other."

1 comment:

ralfgugginger said...

i was in central park at the time of cristo installation and it was not a special feeling when walking through the gates. it was of course interesting for all friends of digital photography. that's it.