Sunday, January 3, 2010

Parisians, tourists take a shine to Christo's golden PontNeuf.(Features Art).

Holiday 2008

The Bird (Ben Heine), originally uploaded by Ben Heine.

Paris FRANCE -- BY LISA ROCHON Special to The Globe and Mail PARIS FROM A LOOKOUT in the Louvre, the Pont Neuf clearly outshines the other stone- grey bridges that span the Seine River. It pretends to be the last survivor of El Dorado, a dinosaur dipped in gold from the tips of its lampposts to the bottom of its supports.

In reality, the gold is a silky fabric that has wrapped the Pont Neuf for the past two weeks.

The man responsible for the wrapping is Christo, the "site artist" renowned for creating "gentle disturbances" around the world. But tonight the awe and controversy over the golden bridge will be peeled away as the project is carefully unwrapped.

In total, 440,000 square feet of woven polyamide and 10 miles of rope will be packed up for a secret burial.

The elegrant wrapping of the Pont Neuf, a gift entirely financed by Christo, was 10 years in the making. The $2.67-million project is the latest presented by the 50-year- old American, who has previously surrounded Florida islands in fuchsia pink and hung a giant curtain through the Colorado Valley.

In Paris, more than three million people visited the Pont Neuf to touch or scribble on a golden patch and, mostly, learn how to walk over a work of art. The material falls like a Greek toga over the bridge, spilling out into the sidewalks and covering a nearby park. Only the bronze horse of Henri IV is left without wrapping, a stoic streaker.

As if held under a spell from the past, Parisians and tourists slow their pace to inspect Christo's "site art." Visitors settle on the bridge's benches, posing against the gold folds as if for Delacroix.

Meanwhile, 150 young guides in blue jumpsuits wander the bridge to guard against scissor-happy strays anxious for a golden memory.

The relaxed mood drifts downriver to Pont du Carousel, the next bridge west. Below it, Christo sits on a barge in the Seine to contemplate the Pont Neuf and its surroundings.

Bending a knee to his chin and adjusting a tattered smock, Christo starts by redefining a "work of art." With a slight look of contempt for the Louvre, looming straight ahead, he scorns the Venus de Milo, one of the museum's treasured Greek sculptures. "We have a completely misleading interpretation of what is a work of art. The Venus de Milo has nothing to do with being a work of art. Somebody happened to discover it 300 years ago and decided that it was a work of art." The outspoken artist has been a hero to some Parisians and a troublemaker par excellence to others. Certainly, his project has gained him notoriety in the city and, even when he is hidden away on an inconspicuous barge, fans spot him and applaud as they sail by. This, after the prefect of the Paris police stalled on granting Christo permission for the project until this July, and then only after President Francois Mitterrand gave his personal nod.

Today's work of art is invalid, Christo says, because it rarely represents the artist at his prime time. "The moment the work is over, it is in continuous dislocation, deterioration - it constantly changes. For me, the Pont Neuf project was finished on Sept. 22. After that, there was 14 days of housekeeping." Site art, according to Christo, deals with present-day reality; an artist interprets an environment and people then adjust to that interpretation. "The basis to all my work deals with manipulated space, sometimes urban, sometimes rural. My project creates a gentle disturbance. That disturbance makes you readjust, re-examine your movements around something that is usually just routine." The Pont Neuf project was not the first of Christo's ideas inspired by the city. Several years ago, he toyed with wrapping the trees that line the Champs Elysees, or wrapping the Ecole Militaire. The Eiffel Tower, he laughs, was never even considered because "it's really just a trivial monument." In 1972, Christo turned to the river as a unique and integral part of the city. The Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, was the next obvious choice. Since it was built in 1606, it has inspired hundreds of artists from the Impressionists to the Cubists and Fauvists to amateur painters in sun hats. "Finally, with my wrapping, it will become the sculpture of the day . . . It can't be bought or saved, and you can't charge an entrance fee." The technique and colors applied to the Pont Neuf wrapping are surprising compared to the bright monochromes used by Christo in the past. But in Paris, a city The New Yorker describes as "the most cultural, art- oriented city in the world," the project aimed to be as subtle as the Mona Lisa, and as luxurious as chocolate truffles spilling from a dish. "I made the project very subtle, extremely elegant and sophisticated.

From afar, you almost don't notice that it's been wrapped. It's only when you approach that you see the fabric is moving and melting into its surroundings."

Source Citation
"Parisians, tourists take a shine to Christo's golden Pont Neuf.(Features Art)." Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 8 Oct. 1985: C4. Popular Magazines. Web. 3 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:A165558867

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