Package 1961 by Christo

Media - 2000.30 - SAAM-2000.30_1 - 45200
Christo, Package 1961, 1961, fabric and rope on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2000.30, © 1961, Christo
August 13, 2010

Just outside the exhibition Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence is a small earlier piece by Christo. Unlike the outdoor environmental works that he did in collaboration with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, Package 1961 is a sculpture or assemblage composed of knotted fabric on a wooden shipping pallet. It dates back nearly fifty years and speaks to Christo's early life. Born in Bulgaria in 1935, he left the communist state as a young man, first for Vienna and Paris, and then for the United States. Package seems to speak of travel done not for pleasure, but for necessity, for freedom. Objects such as cans and bottles poke through the cloth, but most things remain ambiguous, mysterious. But the work contains so much more: the artist's history. In a way, we are what we carry.

Earlier this year I had the good fortune of interviewing Christo before the opening of Remembering the Running Fence. We spoke of the work that he and Jeanne-Claude did such as Running Fence and Valley Curtain, projects that used fabric partly as a conduit of light. In those works, the fabric divided, but it also brought people together in a marvelous way. We didn't speak of his early pieces such as Package 1961, where the fabric is linked to a lack of freedom, of being torn or uprooted from everyday life. Perhaps if I speak to him again, I'll ask him what's inside. With any luck, he won't tell me.


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