Wrapped Reichstag

It began with a postcard and it ended with one too. In 1961, “Christo and Jeanne-Claude”, the flamboyant and symbiotic artist duo received a card from a Berlin art historian to wrap the Reichstag in response to their prior 1961 “Project for Wrapping a Public Building”. Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked for 24 years to seek permission from the German parliament. With the support of the President of the Parliament, Rita Süssmuth, Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked to convince the elected Members of Parliament, going from office to office, writing explanatory letters to each of the 662 delegates and innumerable telephone calls and negotiations.

The members were afraid that it would send a wrong signal to East Germany during the Cold War, the parliament being so close to the wall. Only on 25 February 1995 after a 70 minute debate at the Parliament and a Roll Call vote, the Bundestag allowed the project to go ahead. More than 100,000 sq m of fireproof polypropylene fabric, covered by an aluminum layer, and 15 km of rope were used in the wrapping that took five days. From 24 June to 7th July 1995, it was seen by five million visitors, but notably absent was Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who consistently opposed the idea and left Berlin for the two-week duration.

The photocontroversy began three years later when the duo sued a postcard company for distributing the pictures of the Wrapped Reichstag without their permission. The official photos of the event, like the one above, were taken by the duo’s close friend Wolfgang Volz. In a highly controversial trial between what is public domain and what isn’t, the judge ruled in the favor of the duo, noting that although the event was open-air, it was a special exhibition of limited duration.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude met in Paris, France in November, 1958, sharing the same date of birth and have worked together for 51 years creating temporary works of art. Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon born in Casablanca, Morocco died in New York last month on 18th November 2009. She will be missed.