There are a handful of artists in the canon of contemporary art who are so keenly rewarded for their monumental productions that they forget the work they made before they made it. Christo became a household name in the 1980s when he started wrapping islands, bridges, and buildings in shiny fabrics – a practice that even he admitted was mostly administration – and with this habit cured his earlier addiction to wrapping everyday objects in sheets of fabric and plastics. And he wrapped everything: shoes, jerry cans, a child’s pram, typewriters. He even wrapped ‘packages’ – objects which had already been wrapped – and paintings.
Gagosian’s sexy marketing of Christo’s 1950s and 60s wraps in the quirky ‘open’ space of an unrenovated 18th-century Huguenot house in East London may just save this artist from art history’s cruel type-casting of his practice as ‘environmental’ or ‘political’. They’re made of the right materials which aged as though to fit perfectly next to Beuys’ felt piano. And the show is sure a joyful crowd pleaser. But Christo himself lost faith in these objects. To appreciate them truly against his wishes, one must forget his later stunts. That would require more goodwill than the art market has for anyone.