Expat Club visits Christo lecture

It is not very common that an artist of the like of Christo comes to Brussels. There are not many artists that can equal the length of his career (about half a century, he’s 82 years old now). There are probably none that can match the scale of his works. Think the wrapping of the German Reichstag, the covering of 2,5 kilometers of Australian coast, and a 40km clothed fence that ran through Northern California. Expat Club had the pleasure to join this great event with a full first balcony row.


A sold out Flagey Studio 4 Theater with 800 people welcomed the world-famous artist with a huge applause on Monday 23 October at about 19h20. Sponsored by ING Belgium, he started going over his carreer that spans half a century. My initial idea was that his earlier works could have been his later works as well. They were all already grand, bold, risky and most of all tremendous projects.

Two projects were highlighted during his talk: the Mastaba in Abu Dhabi, a pyramid made of oil barrels, and The Floating Piers, connected platforms on the North Italian Iseo Lake. While they may seem like large but still simple projects – meaning just put some barrels or floating elements together – his explanation of what had to be done to realise such works of art shows that these are indeed very complex projects that require years if not decades of preparation.

For instance, Christo explained that wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin, involved hundreds of talks with representatives and their local constituents. The audience surely was convinced that projects require much more work than just the construction. Talks, presentations, legal advice and of course the financial implications. As an example one could take it took 17.000 man hours to wrap the Australian coast. And since his projects often involve the use of public space, gaining political and legal approval is a job in and of itself. Therefore he hires consultants, such as the firm of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to open doors that would otherwise be difficult to even knock on in the first place.

During the Q&A he extensively answered many questions from the audience. One of the issues he further explained concerned who pays for these projects. Although some cities or regions benefit significantly from his presence – e.g. 1,2 million people walked over the floating piers – it was surprising to learn that basically it comes out of his own pocket. Christo explained that such art works do not come alone, but involve hundreds of drawings, scale models and other smaller works, which all can be sold individually but that all come together in temporary projects that we know and can enjoy in real-life… of course if we are lucky enough to be able to go there.

Noteable was his avoidance of the question how he fled Bulgaria in the 1950’s. One member of the audience raised the rumour that he fled in a piece of cloth in the back of a car. I cannot remember his response, but for sure he did not touch upon his journey to the United States with a single word. Another person asked if he had seen interesting objects in Brussels to be wrapped. He also didn’t answer that question initially, but when the question was asked again he unfortunately gave a clear no. Just in case he changes his mind and decides to come back to Brussels, I’m sure Expat Club members have some awesome suggestions. Personally I would say the Atomium or the Basilique would be great candidates, although if he is familiar with the term Brusselisation I’m sure he would find endless inspiration in our city to hide some of the ugliest buildings from our eyesights 😉

Expat Club visits the Christo & Jean-Claude “Urban Projects” exhibition on Sunday 29 October at 11h00 in the ING Art Center on Place Royale. Click here for more information ≫

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