It’s a love letter that takes the form of 100,000 square metres of undulating polyethylene cubes covered in shiny golden fabric.
It’s taken 46 years (or 2000, depending on who you ask) but Bulgarian-American conceptual artist Christo has finally walked on water. Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, known as simply Christo, and his late wife Jeanne-Claude first dreamt up The Floating Piers – a huge, saffron-coloured walkway recently installed on Italy’s Lake Iseo – in 1970. The project has now been realised, floating serenely over a stretch of water in the country’s Lombardy region and connecting two islands with each other and the mainland. Sadly, one half of the duo behind some of the world’s most controversial and ambitious public artworks wasn’t there to see it.
The Floating Piers is the first work Christo and Jeanne-Claude conceived together and it’s the first large-scale work Christo has undertaken since the couple completed The Gates – 7503 gates hung with bright orange fabric in Central Park – in 2005.
Christo spent months scouring Northern Italy searching for the perfect location to install his and Jeanne-Claude’s long-held dream. The 81-year-old artist settled on Lake Iseo, near Brescia, finding it to be the “most inspiring” location.
Watch the first people walk out onto The Floating Piers... Post continues after video.
Christo and a team of helpers including engineers, deep-sea divers and construction workers installed 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes covered in shimmery yellow material to create a walkway out over the surface of the lake. Visitors can walk out over the three-kilometre long, 16-metre wide walkway from Sulzano to the islands of Monte Isola and San Paolo. The golden fabric continues into Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio along two-and-a-half kilometres of pedestrian streets.
From the heights of the surrounding mountains, the stunning stretch of richly coloured walkway is transformed, deepening to red or lightening to shades of gold depending on the water and sunlight.
Christo likens the experience of walking over The Floating Piers to walking on water or even on “the back of a whale”. It’s expected that more than half a million visitors will descend on sleepy Lake Iseo which has long been in the shadow of its popular neighbour Lake Garda.
The installation is open to the public and free of charge for 16 days until July 3. It was, as are all Christo and Jeanne-Claude projects, entirely funded by sales of Christo’s artworks and each element of The Floating Piers is completely recyclable.
Watch the walkway being constructed... Post continues after video.
The artistic connection that drew Bulgarian-born Christo and Moroccan-born Jeanne-Claude together perhaps began as early as June 13, 1935: that’s the day each was born. They met in Paris in 1958 and began a marriage and a body of work that includes large-scale installations in destination as disparate as Little Bay, New South Wales and Central Park, New York City.
Together (along with 90 professional climbers and 120 installation workers), they wrapped the Reichstag building in Berlin in 1995 with swathes of fireproof polypropylene fabric. A decade before, it was Paris’s Pont Neuf, which was shrouded with 40,000 square metres of polyamide fabric.
Other projects have involved monuments wrapped from Milan to Bern, an enormous “curtain” installed between mountains in Colorado and a giant fabric fence running 40 kilometres between Sonoma and Marin Counties in California.
So focused were they on their shared vision that Christo and Jeanne-Claude flew in separate planes so that if one crashed, the other could finish their work. Jeanne-Claude died at 74 in 2009 from complications arising from a brain aneurysm. Now that one has gone, the other is faithfully completing their shared visions.
“There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone,” Christo says.
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