Christo and Jean Claude never explained, interpreted or gave meanings to their work; they didn’t need to. We will always obligingly do that for them. Writers and art critics have theorised about their ideas, conjuring a complex set of social, political, philosophical and psychological reasons why we should be interested in the art they produced. If I list many of the customary arguments here, you might consider them to be pretentious, meaningless drivel. And who knows, you may well be right. What I know is, I love the mystery and sense of wonder they created by using the unbelievably simple device of concealment, and for some reason it is far more effective if the object is relatively well known and familiar in terms of scale and shape.
I stumbled across this ready-made Christo in the grounds of Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge. I think they would be delighted.
‘When Christo began to wrap objects in 1958, he used everyday objects such as shoes, telephones and empty paint cans to make his sculptures. Once wrapped, the objects would take on a new identity. By wrapping them, he would reveal some of the most basic features and proportions of the object by concealing the actual item. Christo and Jeanne-Claude later expanded this idea in projects such as The Pont Neuf Wrapped and the Wrapped Reichstag, but on a much larger scale. While the intricate details of the structures are hidden, the essence of the structures are revealed all the while making the imposing and solid structure seem airy and nomadic’.
‘The use of real fabric also gives the work a fragile, sensual and temporary character while wrapping objects is definitely an important part of their œuvre, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have done very few wrappings in comparison to their whole portfolio of artworks. It is easier for some to grasp the wrapping concept and refer to their artworks entirely as “wrapping,” but the work is more about altering an environment than wrapping – which is only one way to do that. The last time the artists had an idea for a wrapping was in 1975, when they had the idea of wrapping the Pont-Neuf in Paris, ten years before they realized the work of art.’
Reincarnated in the last decade as the social heart of Doha, Souq Waqif is a wonderful place to explore and an undoubted highlight of the city. There has been a souq on this site for centuries; the Bedu would bring their sheep, goats and wool here to trade for essentials, and the entire market area has been cleverly redeveloped to look like a 19th-century souq, with mud-rendered shops, exposed timber beams and some beautifully restored original Qatari buildings.
With booming prosperity, the advent of vast, air-conditioned shopping malls and Qatar’s rush to embrace the new, Souq Waqif fell into serious decline by the 1990s and much of the souq was destroyed in a fire in 2003. The outcry from Qataris prompted the authorities to undertake a massive rehabilitation program, one that continues to this day. Such has been the success of this venture that the souq keeps growing to accommodate new ‘old alleyways’.
The Lonely Planet
This photograph was taken at around 5 am before the stall holders arrive. All the alleyways are empty and silent, yet there is something about these covered shop fronts that conjures with our imaginations. The associations and potential symbolism of these ‘cloth coverings’ are many; Christo was on to something.