Posts tagged with "Serpentine Gallery":
Junya Ishigami’s 2019 Serpentine Pavilion has been purchased by technology firm and spa operator Therme Group, the same buyers of last year’s Frida Escobedo-designed installation. The acquisition was recently announced at the Serpentine Galleries’ Frieze Breakfast to mark the opening of Frieze London. This year is also the second consecutive year of Serpentine’s partnership with the Therme Art Program. The program’s mission is to “broaden conversations about art, technology, and architecture” through developing and realizing large-scale art projects to be exhibited in the group’s thermal baths. The company wants to challenge the limitations of conventional exhibition spaces, something the installations have been used for before—take SelgasCano's 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, which was repurposed into a flexible exhibition space in L.A. The event featured remarks by Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Mikolaj Sekutowicz, curator and CEO of the Therme Art Program. During the breakfast, Sekutowicz remarked that “It has become incredibly important to merge nature and human architecture to overcome the environmental challenges our civilization is currently facing. As a company, we are actively searching for solutions to challenges in architectural design and city planning through art,” according to a press release. Back in June, Therme hosted an Art and Architecture workshop series with Ishigama in the pavilion, which aimed to challenge “ideas of contemporary art and architecture emphasizing their potential in reframing the ways we plan and build our cities.” There, Ishigami explained his ‘free space’ philosophy, in which he aims to seek harmony between manmade structures and those that exist in nature. Obrist elaborated on this during the Frieze breakfast saying, “His gravity-defying ‘slate roof’ has welcomed thousands of visitors to the park this summer to enjoy both the space itself and the many live and experimental performances that are programmed especially for the space. It is exciting to imagine its future life in a new environment.” Therme Group plans on exhibiting the pavilion to the public at its various resorts around the world.
Junya Ishigami’s sinuous stone 2019 Serpentine Pavilion is now complete and will open to the public this Friday, June 21, on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in east London. Ishigami worked closely with AECOM to design a lightweight, open-ended structure that floats a canopy of slate tiles above an occupiable void. Ishigami, the fourth Japanese architect to be tapped for a Serpentine commission since 2000, has designed a structure meant to evoke the feeling of wandering into a cave or forest as an extension of the natural landscape that complements the traditional architecture of the Serpentine Galleries. Sixty-seven tons of slate were used to create a swooping shingle roof that references a traditional building material found worldwide as well as natural rock formations. The triangular pavilion curves downwards at the corners and visitors can enter through the uplifted middle sections, imbuing the roof with a “billowing” motion. Inside, a forest of white columns has been randomly distributed and once open, the pavilion will be filled with simple tables and chairs designed by Ishigami. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion will be open to the public from June 21 through October 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Serpentine Gallery will be staging its usual site-specific movie screenings, dances, written work, art, and dance as part of its Summer at the Serpentine series. Of course, if you’ve been following the news, this year’s pavilion hasn’t been without its share of drama. The discovery that Ishigami + Associates was requiring its interns to work 13-hour days, six a week for free (on top of having to supply their own equipment) set off a fervor online, and the Serpentine Gallery ordered the studio to pay anyone who was working on the pavilion. The controversy doesn’t end there. Just this morning, the head of the Serpentine Galleries, Yana Peel, resigned, one week after the Guardian revealed that Peel co-owns the Israeli tech firm NSO Group, which licenses out spyware used to crack down on protestors and dissidents around the world. The Serpentine Galleries released the following statement this morning, lauding Peel’s tenure: “Yana leaves the Serpentine Galleries deeply grounded in its mission to provide both established and emerging artists with a dynamic platform to showcase their work, and well-positioned to thrive. While we have every confidence in the Serpentine’s ability to continue to serve artists, visitors, and supporters in the future, she will be sorely missed. The arts sector will be poorer without her immeasurable contributions to our cultural lives.”
After 2019 Serpentine Pavilion designer Junya Ishigami came under fire last week for hiring unpaid interns, the online fury, and response from Ishigami, has been swift. The Serpentine Gallery has told the Tokyo-based Junya Ishigami + Associates that it must pay anyone working on a Serpentine project, and the surrounding discussion has raised larger questions over the value of labor in architecture. The furor began on March 22, after architect Adam Nathaniel Furman revealed an internship posting for Ishigami + Associates on Instagram. Prospective employees were expected to work 13-hour days, six days a week for free, and would have to supply their own computers and software. Internships were expected to last 8-to-12 weeks, “or more.”
The Serpentine Gallery, which only uses paid labor on its installations, told the Architect’s Journal that it was unaware of the practice and would contact Ishigami + Associates over the matter. Now it appears that the gallery has ordered Ishigami to pay any interns working on the pavilion. While the problem has been framed as something that’s ubiquitous in Japan—the 2013 pavilion designer Sou Fujimoto was also criticized at the time for using unpaid labor—that doesn’t mean unpaid internships aren’t prevalent elsewhere. After the news originally broke, commentators and architects spoke out and provided examples of studios that still don’t pay their interns.
Alejandro Aravena’s Elemental reached out to Dezeen yesterday in a collective open letter and announced that it would be taking the drastic step of ending all internships. The studio, which claims that it has hosted over 150 interns over the years, framed the move as not wanting to be seen as exploiting its interns in an atmosphere of hysterics. The firm laid out a number of benefits that its interns had received in the past, including a “transfer of knowledge,” but also conceded that prospective applicants would need to move to Chile and support themselves for 4 months. In a quote pulled from a comment below the recently recirculated 2016 Archinect editorial, “Brexit: a chance to roll back the interventionist state and unleash entrepreneurial creativity,” Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects laid out his stance on the issue. In his defense of unpaid or low-paid internships, Schumacher claimed they are the result of a well-functioning market, where such internships are transactions between employers and their employees, and that students had the option of not accepting them. Additionally, he claims that mandating internships be paid would be the government meddling in the free and open competition between companies. “I’m just happy that there is some momentum on this,” said Adam Nathaniel Furman, who has regularly been posting exploitative job listings via Instagram under the hashtag of #archislavery. “It seems to pop up every few years but nothing is done, however now with the model of metoo and other forms of communal pressure, I think it is time to end these practices which are exclusionary of those from less well-off backgrounds (I have heard so many stories of those from less well-off backgrounds leaving the profession because of encountering this culture), and exploitative of those who do take them up. I’m hoping this will start a chain reaction where the whole ecosystem of low paid cultural commissions, unpaid competitions and free pitch work that this sustains, is finally blown to smithereens and consigned to the scrapheap of history where it belongs...”
Junya Ishigami + Associates declined to comment when reached for this story.
Junya Ishigami, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion designer, has come under fire after an Architect’s Journal report brought the Tokyo-based Junya Ishigami + Associates’ internship policy to light. A student who reached out to the firm to apply for an internship reportedly told the Journal that they would be expected to work six days a week, from 11 AM to midnight, for free and would have to supply their own computer and accompanying software. The internship would last for 8 to 12 weeks, “or longer,” according to emails reviewed by the Journal. Prospective interns would also be on their own in relocating to Japan and in acquiring a visa. The student ultimately decided not to apply, citing the extreme workload and high price of living in Tokyo. Unpaid internship culture is still pervasive in Japan, but a number of British organizations have come out against the practice, including the Serpentine Gallery. A Serpentine spokesperson told the Journal that they weren’t aware of Ishigami + Associates’ use of unpaid labor and would be looking into the situation. Additionally, they noted that “the Serpentine only supports paid positions on all of its projects and commissions, and is a London Living Wage employer.” This isn’t the first time a Japanese Serpentine Pavilion designer has drawn flak for using unpaid interns. The 2013 pavilion architect, Sou Fujimoto, was accused of doing the same and defended himself in Dezeen, saying that "in Japan we have a long history of interns and usually the students work for free for several periods. It’s a nice opportunity for both of us: [for the employer] to know younger generations and for them to know how architects in Japan or different countries are working." AN has reached out Junya Ishigami + Associates for comment and will update this article accordingly.
The 2019 Serpentine Pavilion has found its architect. Junya Ishigami, the Golden Lion winner at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, has designed a monolithic stone canopy to rise on the grounds of London’s Serpentine Galleries. Ishigami’s pavilion will open on June 20 this summer alongside the gallery’s augmented reality collaboration with Google, Sir David Adjaye, and a prospective design competition winner. “My design for the Pavilion plays with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape,” said Ishigami in a statement, “ emphasizing a natural and organic feel as though it had grown out of the lawn, resembling a hill made out of rocks. This is an attempt to supplement traditional architecture with modern methodologies and concepts, to create in this place an expanse of scenery like never seen before. Possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric.” Ishigami, born 1974, previously worked at SANAA until 2004, when he left to form Junya Ishigami + Associates in Tokyo. The firm’s work has often been described as minimalist, yet still active and in dialogue with surrounding landscapes, and the 2019 pavilion seems like it should be similar. Ishigami has proposed layering slate tiles to form a single cavelike structure and that will recontextualize the roofing materials into something that appears both natural and contrived. The contemplative, naturalistic pavilion appears to share themes, materials, and colors with last year’s perforated installation from Mexican architect Frida Escobedo. The Serpentine Pavilion, now in its 19th iteration, will be open to the public from June 20 through October 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. A slate of programming has been lined up as part of the annual Summer at the Serpentine series. The gallery has commissioned site-specific films, dances, art pieces, written work, and more to accompany the pavilion on select Fridays. The pavilion will be sponsored by Goldman Sachs for the fifth year in a row.
London’s Serpentine Galleries are going high-tech for its 2019 summer installation. Together with Google Arts & Culture and Serpentine trustee David Adjaye, the arts institution is soliciting augmented reality (AR) architecture proposals to run alongside the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion this summer. Serpentine Augmented Architecture is taking entries from all over the world until February 25. According to the brief, applicants are expected to “propose imaginary city spaces and speculations on the built environment to be developed and experienced” in AR onsite at the galleries. The jury, composed of writers, curators, designers, technologists, and architects, is evaluating proposals on three different categories: How can the city be augmented or reinvented through AR? How can AR recontextualize our spatial relationships, given that the challenges and limitations of designing in the physical world are nonexistent in digital realities? Finally, each submission needs to be at least somewhat site-specific, as the Serpentine Gallery sits within an ecologically-sensitive park and welcomes up to 12 million visitors a year. Most importantly, because AR is in a relatively nascent stage, despite the tech being readily available to anyone with a smartphone, the boundaries and rules for its use have yet to be written. Any creative uses of augmented reality, including those that evolve over time, will be accepted. Entrants who are selected for the two-stage competition’s shortlist will move ahead to the second round and will be given a stipend of $1,000 to further develop their idea. After that, one winning proposal will be realized on the gallery’s grounds in July, and the winning team will receive approximately $3,800 for travel and accommodation expenses. Interested in applying? The full guidelines can be found here. The Serpentine Galleries are leaning heavily into tech this year, and Marina Abramovic will be staging her own AR installation in the main gallery space from February 19 through 24. While the architect of the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion hasn’t been announced yet, that information should become available any day now, giving applicants a better idea of what their work will be shown alongside.
The Frida Escobedo-designed 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London, may have already opened earlier this month, but the excitement is far from over. The Serpentine Gallery has launched Park Nights 2018, a nighttime series of imaginative and interdisciplinary events that feature eight international artists interacting with the pavilion. The performances will run between July and September, and the pavilion is open through October 7. The series kicks off with Victoria Sin, an interdisciplinary artist who uses “speculative fiction” in her performances that incorporate movies and writing. Her Serpentine project will feature poetry, drag, science fiction, and a Shy One-produced soundtrack. Her performance will take participants through a discovery of “the often unsettling experience of the physical within the social body.” Kamasi Washington will perform next. Washington is a music producer and composer who works with saxophone and other instruments. Together with his band, he will improvise a music experience that engages the crowd and the environment. Unisex fashion line TELFAR is the next presenter. The Telfar Clemens-founded, gender-non-conforming clothing line will develop experiments that blend style and music. They will collaborate with South African band FAKA and a choir on vocal music to accompany the display of their latest S/S19 collection. Yaeji, a Korean-American artist who works with hip-hop and avant-garde pop, follows with her dance and electronic-music-inspired sound performance. During her show, the audience will be blindfolded and submerged in an echoing environment of experimental music. Enigmatic storyteller Megan Rooney will occupy the pavilion with “movement, words and sound.” The performance titled SUN DOWN MOON UP presents female magpies “invading” Mount Athos, bringing up topics of human invention in nature. Sculptor Pedro Reyes’s “science-fiction-comedy” puppet play will conclude the series. The show will interpret real-life characters such as American linguist Noam Chomsky, Russian-American writer Ayn Rand, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The drama will touch on the hidden dangers of technological advancements. Check out this link for tickets.
Artist Christo, famous for his large-scale landscape interventions, has completed work on The London Mastaba, a massive trapezoid made of multi-colored barrels and set afloat in London’s Serpentine Lake. The installation sits adjacent to the Serpentine Gallery and will run concurrently with the gallery’s retrospective of Christo and late wife Jeanne-Claude work. The London Mastaba is Christo’s first large-scale installation in the UK, and the trapezoidal form and the use of barrels is a return to both a shape and a material that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have consistently explored throughout their long career. The temporary sculpture, floating in the middle of the historic Hyde Park on top of an interlocking platform, was designed to be extremely visible without damaging the ecologically sensitive lake. The 7,506 barrels, arranged to create a colorful face on either side of the trapezoid, are stacked 65 feet high, 130 feet long, and 90 feet wide. When reflected in the surrounding lake, The London Mastaba’s split-face creates an ever-changing reflection. Much like the Serpentine Pavilion nearby, the sun’s movement over the course of the summer and resultant shadows will alter the work’s appearance every day. In name, form, and color, The London Mastaba references Islamic art. The red-and-white stripes on the round side of the barrels creates a visually homogenous “outer coating,” while the mauve, blue, and red outer walls are abstractions of the pointillist-styled artworks found in Islamic architecture. Even the word Mastaba references similarly-shaped Egyptian tombs. “For three months, The London Mastaba will be a part of Hyde Park's environment in the centre of London," said Christo in a statement. “The colours will transform with the changes in the light and its reflection on the Serpentine Lake will be like an abstract painting. It has been a pleasure to work with The Royal Parks to realize The London Mastaba and with our friends at the Serpentine Galleries to create an exhibition showing Jeanne-Claude’s and my 60-year history of using barrels in our work.” The London Mastaba and accompanying show Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958-2018 are free to the public. As with his other pieces, Christo has entirely self-financed the sculpture’s construction through sales of original works of art. The London Mastaba is currently open to the public and viewable through September 23, 2018, while the exhibition will run from June 19 through September 9, 2018. Christo is also well known for his fabric installations; the Lake Iseo-spanning The Modular Pier in Italy drew major crowds to the region in 2015, while the series of gates installed throughout Central Park in 2005 were met with widespread media attention (for better or for worse).
The Serpentine Pavilion just went international after opening its first destination outside the U.K. in Beijing, China. The inaugural Serpentine Pavilion Beijing is open to the public from May 30 through October 31, on Wangfujing in the Dongcheng District. Cantilevering metal ribs span the WF CENTRAL public square, and are anchored by cables onto the ground’s steel slab. As architecture in Beijing regularly deals with strong winds and earthquakes, the form of the rib resembles the profile of a bow, which is a design symbolizing how a Tai Chi Master has the ability “to conquer the harshness of those forces [resistances to architecture] with softness.” The design of the renowned Chinese practice JIAKUN Architects, led by architect and educator Liu Jiakun, was chosen because it responds well to Beijing’s unique historic and social context. It also references the past 18 designs of Serpentine Pavilions in London’s Royal Park of Kensington Gardens, including works by Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and other key figures. JIAKUN Architects was inspired by Confucius’s invention of the traditional concept of Junzi, or the Exemplary Man. The pavilion presents a space for people to be enlightened and to contemplate on the Confucian philosophy. The design is reminiscent of the Liu’s previous works, which combines contemporary architecture issues with an approach influenced by Chinese folk wisdom. West Village – Basis Yard and Chengdu MOCA are among his other famous projects. The Serpentine Pavilion Beijing will be the venue for five “Pavilion Weekends” over the summer and will host a series of art, cultural and lifestyle programs. It will also include lectures by celebrated artists and architects, well-being workshops, lawn parties, children’s disco classes and outdoor art-cinemas. The Serpentine Galleries in London has commissioned a leading architect to design a temporary summer pavilion every year since 2000. This year they commissioned Mexican architect Frida Escobedo.
On April 3, the world-renowned artist Christo began construction of his first major public work in the United Kingdom, The Mastaba. The stand-alone, pyramidal sculpture composed of 55-gallon oil barrels will be located in London’s Hyde Park, floating atop the park’s 40-acre Serpentine Lake. The temporary sculpture will be built by a team of engineers, and will consist of over 7,000 barrels placed over a floating platform. Rising at a 60-degree angle, the structure will reach a height of 65.5 feet with a 90-foot width at its base. The base’s floating platform will be constructed of weighted, high-density polyethylene cubes. These buoyant cubes will support a steel scaffolding frame serving as the structural core of the 500-ton sculpture. In terms of surface area, the footprint of the sculpture will be approximately one percent of the Serpentine. Barrels visible along the slopes and top of sculpture will be painted red and white, while those located on the two vertical walls will be a gradient of mauve, blue, and red. Following the project's decommissioning, materials such as the oil barrels will be recycled for industrial use within the United Kingdom. The project is influenced by Christo's decades-long effort to create The Mastaba in Dubai, a speculative concept utilizing 190,000 oil barrels to create the largest, permanent structure in the world. In a press release, Christo noted that the construction, maintenance and removal of his works is entirely funded by the artist through the sale of his original works of art, as well as philanthropic donations. In tandem with Christo’s unveiling of The Mastaba, the nearby Serpentine Galleries will present its first exhibition of Christo’s decades-long collaboration with his late wife, Jean-Claude. The artistic duo was known for their large-scale and public works. Past pieces such as Wall of Iron Barrels (1961) and The Wall (1998) similarly used oil barrels for massively scaled sculptures. Public parks and natural landscapes figured prominently in their partnership, with Running Fence (1976) and The Gates (2005) contrasting and drawing upon their surrounding environments. Weather permitting, construction of the sculpture will be complete by June 18, with dismantlement commencing on September 23.
What does it say about London-based clothing brand COS that it is targeting architects and designers? Its price points ($99 to $225 for a men’s dress shirt) are relatively accessible when compared to many other boutique or more explicitly luxury-oriented brands. At the same time, within the mass-market fast-fashion sector, COS has a different approach than other stores like Uniqlo or H&M (where dress shirts are more in the $30 range), which can tell us something about the brand and its ethos. Working in this sector, where does COS find its niche? For COS, engagement has come through the design sphere; its target is the attendees of selective, high-end gatherings. In contrast, Uniqlo has partnered with MoMA, an institution that is trying harder everyday to cast as wide a net as possible, with celebrity-driven events like its controversial 2015 Bjork exhibition, or its apparent decision to get rid of permanent, discipline-specific galleries like architecture and design, in favor of cross-disciplinary shows with wider appeal. The Uniqlo-MoMA relationship includes the Japanese fashion brand’s sponsorship of free Fridays at the museum, as well as a line of collaborative T-shirts that are sold at the Fifth Avenue Uniqlo flagship store just a few doors down from MoMA in New York City. COS’s involvement ranges from sponsoring Park Nights at London’s Serpentine, a series of programs in the annual pavilion, to site-specific installations at global design events such as Design Miami/ and Milan Design Week. A recent string of projects has moved the brand away from earlier collaborations that were simpler and fairly vague—such as a 2014 project at Salone del Mobile with Japanese design studio Nendo—toward more interactive, experiential installations that activate space and merge into the architectural.
In November 2017, COS and New York-based Snarkitecture presented Loop, where visitors to Seoul’s Gana Art Center gallery could place a white glass marble on a light- blue metal track, where it would descend to the gallery floor below. Similarly, London designers Studio Swine brought their Salone del Mobile installation New Spring to Miami for Design Miami/. There, visitors could play with special bubbles that fell from an arched sculpture and were filled with one of five scented mists. Next up is a collaboration with the Palm Springs-based artist Phillip K. Smith III in Milan, for which details are still pending. While these installations might seem random, they make sense as an outreach and audience-building strategy for COS. Material and geometry are an important part of the COS brand, and in this sense, it shares DNA with modernism in architecture and design. “Ornament and Crime,” by Austrian architect Adolf Loos, is one of the most important treatises on the role of decoration after the industrial revolution. Personally, Loos preferred to wear very simple English wools suits. “When the English set it upon themselves to rule the world, they freed themselves from the imitation of silly costumes that they had been condemned to by other nations, and imposed the primeval dress around the globe,” he once said, albeit extremely problematically by today’s standards. But as a material analysis of post-national modernism, it can be applied to understanding his work.
In his architecture, such as the iconic Villa Müller and its rich marble and wood surfaces that layer over one another through adjacent spaces in a raumplan, Loos preferred simple geometries with rich materials that let the texture become the ornament—one of the major tenets of Miesian modernism and the International Style. Similarly, for COS Creative Director Karin Gustafsson, “We are interested in research such as materials or finishes. We also talk a lot about tactility.” But simplicity wasn’t just a stylistic choice for Loos. He also famously said in 1908 that “when I look back over past centuries and ask myself in which age I would prefer to have lived, my answer is, ‘in the present age.’” He believed that fashion and the reuse of older styles were an unnecessary infatuation with the past. Not surprisingly, he also was one of the pioneers of the modernist aesthetic, which abandoned ornament that he felt harkened back to a premodern sentimentality. To be thoroughly modern, one had to move beyond the past. For COS, modernity also comes from the timeless. “We are a fashion brand the focuses on well-made design and design that is made to last. It is timeless, it is about modernity,” Gustafsson said.
But Loos’s criticisms of older styles were also part of his commitment to the International project and his disdain for ornament, which he thought represented antiquated nationalism. As for COS, “We are a global brand,” COS CEO Marie Honda said. “We want to always represent this through our projects and activations.”
Recently, the brand released Creating Shapes, a book about fashion designer Usha Doshi, one of Gustafsson’s teachers at the Royal College of Art in London. “She is one of the links between the designers and pattern cutters,” Gustafsson told The Architect’s Newspaper. Here, we see another connection between the COS brand and the design world, where making and materials are in a constant feedback loop, and often designers become the connection between the world of material innovation and the world of form-making. Designers and architects alike are always in search of the newest things to form into a chair or the latest glass technique that might lead to a beautiful window.
For its 2018 edition, BRAFA, the Belgian art and antiques fair, honored Christo and Jeanne-Claude by exhibiting an early sculpture which has characterized their work ever since. We speak to Christo about working in the public realm, the importance of architecture, and why he would never accept any donations to fund his projects. Christo and Jeanne-Claude are best known for their large-scale, temporary works of art that intervene on the built environment as well as the natural world, like the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, or more recently, the installment of floating walkways on Italy’s Lake Iseo. But it’s a far lesser-known work that the latest edition of BRAFA Art Fair celebrated earlier this month in Brussels. Three Store Fronts (1965-66), a rarely-exhibited, early sculpture 46 feet long and 8.2 feet tall, mimics the facades of a retail space, and marks an important shift in the artists’ career: from objects to environments. When the Bulgarian-born Christo met his late-wife Jeanne-Claude in Paris in 1958 (she passed away in 2009), his work mostly revolved around the wrapping of everyday objects, like cans and bottles. The couple first turned their attention to the outdoors in 1961, with the artwork Stacked Oil Barrels and Dockside Packages (also considered their first collaboration), installed at the Cologne Harbor, then again the following year, with Wall of Oil Barrels - The Iron Curtain in Paris, a response to the construction of the Berlin Wall. From 1963 until 1968, the development of their sculptural works Show Cases, Show Windows and Store Fronts, further solidified their interest in the public realm. In Show Cases, Christo collected glass displays and medical cabinets from flea markets in Paris, then hung pieces of fabric or pasted paper on the pane interiors, overturning their functions. While these works still largely revolved around an object (comparable to the early Wrapped Cans or Packages), they paved the way for the much larger, life-sized series Show Windows and Store Fronts — of which the views were, again, obstructed with fabric. Their proportions echoed the dimensions of the architecture of New York, where the couple emigrated to in 1964. “These works related to the architectural space of the street,” Christo explains of Show Windows and Store Fronts. “In some way, they were a precursor of works that we did later, like the Valley Curtains in Colorado, or the Running Fence in California.” Both of these projects were extremely ambitious in scale, and shared many similarities with a construction project, says Christo. Valley Curtains, completed in 1972 and removed after only 28 hours, due to a strong gale, featured over 200,000 square feet of woven nylon fabric orange curtain, installed across the Grand Hogback mountain range in Colorado. “We had the same people who build and suspend bridges, from suppliers to construction workers,” explains Christo, whose father ran a fabric factory. Meanwhile, Running Fence (completed in 1976) was made of over 2 million square feet of heavy woven white nylon fabric, extending over 24 miles east-west from the north of San Francisco and down to Bodega Bay. It required 18 public hearings, three sessions at the Superior Courts of California, the drafting of an extensive Environmental Impact Report and the temporary use of the hills, sky and ocean. The Store Fronts series certainly represent a milestone in the artists’ oeuvre, where the environment came to frame their artistic discourse. But for Christo, architecture always played an important role. When he studied at the Sofia Academy of Arts in the 1950s, the curriculum was heavily modeled after the German system, where students would equally study fine arts, decorative arts and architecture. “So it was natural that I was interested in architecture,” he laughs, when I ask about the architectural quality of his projects’ preparatory drawings. And it is precisely these drawings, as well as other collages and lithographs (many of which will be featured in a major exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries in London this summer), that enabled the funding of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s costly, temporary outdoor works. “I refuse any donations,” insists the outspoken, 82-year old artist, who recently cancelled a project over the Arkansas river in Colorado that was 20 years in the making and cost $15 million to date, in protest against its landlord, President Donald Trump. “I escaped from a communist country; I will not give one millimeter of my freedom for anything.” BRAFA Art Fair ran from January 27 until February 4, at Tours & Taxis, Brussels, Belgium. Christo & Jeanne-Claude. Urban Projects runs until February 25, at ING Art Centre, Brussels.