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Culture

All Wrapped Up

An exhibition in Berlin is showing more than 400 works of artists Jeanne-Claude and Christo, probably best known for their "Wrapped Reichstag".

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Christo and Jeanne-Claude with their "Wrapped Oil Barrels".

It was an event to remember: The German Parliament, Reichstag, draped from top to bottom in cloth. More than 5 million visitors came to gape at the spectacular work of art by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Six years on, the two artists are back in Berlin: In the exhibition "Early Works (1958-1969)", more than 400 examples of Christo's art works are on show at the Martin Gropius Museum. It is the largest Christo exhibition yet.

The majority of the exhibition pieces are – yes, you guessed it – wrapped: Chairs, telephones, bottles and lamps – all covered in cloth. But the exhibition also includes detailed coverage on the various large-scale wrapping projects. Some of the most extraordinary projects were the wrapping of a 2.4 kilometre stretch of Australian coast, the wrapping of 178 trees in Switzerland and the "surrounded islands", islands off Florida surrounded by a frame of pink material.

A change of perception

Although the wrapped objects are some of the most famous of the artists' works, the two have launched numerous other projects which do not include cloth of any kind.

One of the last exhibitions in Germany showed a huge installation – a wall of 13,000 oil barrels. The 110-metre-high wall of yellow, green and red oil barrels was on show in one of the largest tank structures in the world, built in Oberhausen.

The idea behind their wrapped works and large-scale projects is to change the way people see and perceive their environment. The artists attempt to disrupt the environment by adding cloth to an island or wrapping up a tree, therefore changing the way the environment acts and moves in the wind and rain.

Many a vistor to one of these large-scale projects might have wondered how the artists actually pay for them. According to the artist's website, Christo & Jeanne-Claude pay the entire cost of the artworks themselves, financing them through the sales of prepatory studies, early works and original lithographs. "Christo & Jeanne-Claude firmly believe that to accept deals of this kind would alter and compromise their art", it says. "Refusing this money assures them they are working in total freedom and in total work respect for their aesthetic. It helps keep their art pure."

Jean-Claude and Christo were born on the same day in 1935. They met in 1958 in Paris. Two years later their son was born. It was in Paris that they began with wrapping objects, including chairs and lamps.

37 years later they wrapped the German Reichstag in 100,000 square metres of cloth.

Today, the couple is still going strong: In their next project Christo and Jean-Claude are planning on covering eleven kilometres of the Arkansas river - with cloth.

The exhibition in Berlin covers both past and present and offers an insight into the intriguing artworks of the two artists.

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