The 24th annual Chairity Art Auction sponsored by Utica-based Sculpture Space on Saturday, September 28th, will feature a limited piece of contemporary artwork – Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Wrapped – created by Bulgarian-born artist Christo, an environmental sculptor noted for massive and controversial outdoor art installations which have spanned the globe over his five-decade career.
Christo, born Christo Javashev in 1935, is best known for the massive outdoor projects he executed with his wife, Jeanne-Claude (Morocco), during a collaborative international career that lasted over 40 years and culminated with her death in 2009. Their work involved the creation of enormous, albeit temporary, environmental sculptures through the “wrapping” of structures, buildings, and even entire parks or landscapes with fabric, serving to conceal the original structure’s image from the viewer’s eye and, thus, memory. The effect was to temporarily disturb the regular rhythm of a locale, challenging its inhabitants to examine their routine social interactions with each other and their environs, and enabling – if not forcing – them to develop new impressions and modes of interactions.
Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Wrapped, is a collaged-graphic Artist’s Proof created in 2011 to commemorate an Italian art installation proposed in 1969….that simply never happened,” said Sculpture Space Executive Director Monika Burczyk.
It is not clear why the oldest bridge in Rome — the Ponte Sant’ Angelo which links the Vatican to the city – failed to realize Christo’s vision, although it has been speculated that the work may have been too complex and unconventional for the historically-conservative and regimented papal environment. Even today, Christo’s proposals frequently encounter installation barriers ranging from public hearings to environmental impact studies, as evidenced in his current effort to shroud the Arkansas River in Colorado – a project that has been in the works for two decades and stalled with controversial legal court proceedings.
The 25×28 piece being sold at Sculpture Space is numbered 24 out of a short series of 50 and is an original Artist’s Proof, worked on by Christo himself. It is a mixed-media, collaged lithograph comprised of photography, pencil, fabric, wax crayon, charcoal, twine, and pastel, portraying his conceptual renderings and a map of the proposed Rome-Vatican art project.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were known for financing their work solely through the sale of preparatory drawings to dealers and collectors, either before or after the work’s proposal or production. According to Burczyk, similar pieces from the Ponte Sant’ Angelo proof and limited edition series have been presented nationally at auction with valuations ranging from $10,000 to $18,000, although not all have sold successfully on the open market. Some have sold privately, as well, in sales that have gone unrecorded.
Christo’s realized projects outnumber those such as Rome’s 1969 proposal that never came to fruition, with subjects that have included bridges, monuments, government buildings, fences, parks, coastal stretches, and entire islands. Although works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude have appeared in countries such as Australia, Japan, Germany, and France as well as the US, upstate New Yorkers may best recall their ephemeral Gates installation in New York City’s Central Park during 2005. Consisting of over 7,000 orange vinyl and fabric panels reaching 16 feet in height and spanning 23 miles of walkways, the project was earlier proposed but rejected by the New York City government in 1981. The Michael Bloomberg administration later approved the installation, which the Central Park Conservancy estimated was ultimately visited by over one million people in its first five days alone.
Burczyk noted that the Central Park installation lasted a mere 16 days in its entirety but left a memorable impression on multiple generations of New Yorkers. “This scenario was characteristic of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work due to its exaggerated scale, monumental production requirements, and ability to evoke mixed public reaction,” she said. “We are so fortunate to be able to offer Christo’s pre-installation studies from time to time here in our own backyard. They are important because they are all that remains of the work constructed by a famous artist whose realm was exclusively temporary.”
According to Burczyk, Christo has supported Sculpture Space for several years now, having contributed multiple signed prints and, in 2011, the Wrapped Snoopy Doghouse collaged-lithograph, initially a project for the Charles M. Schultz Museum. That original proof, valued at $5,500, sold in Utica at the organization’s 22nd Chairity Art Auction for $9,000.
The non-profit Sculpture Space provides two-month residencies for sculpture artists from all over the world, and has helped to advance the careers of over 550 international artists since 1976. Artists-in-residence are provided with 5,000 square feet of studio space as well as the equipment, technical assistance, and specialized resources to make sculpture in a setting that is conducive to experimentation and on a scale they might otherwise be unable to afford. Many works initiated in Utica are later seen in arts venues and exhibits throughout the world. Sculpture Space also provides educational lectures, studio tours, opportunities for the public to observe working artists, and commissioned artwork for the public domain. The organization’s local sculpture installations can be found at Rome’s Griffiss Business & Technology Park, Onondaga Community College, Colgate University, and SUNY Delhi.
The 24th annual Chairity Auction on September 28th will include the sale of artwork by regional artists and Sculpture Space alumni in a variety of media, numerous lifestyle items, and the “Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Wrapped,” by Christo. The evening event will feature viewing during a cocktail hour followed by both live and silent auctions. For information on event tickets or other Sculpture Space initiatives, call 315-724-8381.