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Berlin
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Berlin Art at Site www.berlinkunst.info und Jeanne Claude	Christo	Verhüllter Reichstag (temporär)
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und Jeanne Claude Christo
Verhüllter Reichstag (temporär)
1995
Scheidemannstraße 1
Website
The New York Times (1995):
Christo's Wrapped Reichstag: Symbol for the New Germany
In no way, however, does the Reichstag become insignificant, a fear that was expressed by many opponents of the project, including Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who argued that wrapping the building would trivialize it. Indeed, this huge structure covered in silver-gray fabric remains every bit as monumental as it was before -- perhaps more so, because the wrapping forces the eye to confront the Reichstag anew. The building is shimmering where it once was solid, refined where it once was gross and heavy. But it has lost none of its power.
The real transformation this work offers is not in any concept of the Reichstag, but in the idea of monumentality itself. The wrapped Reichstag makes lightness and softness, two qualities associated with intimate if not trivial objects, into characteristics of the greatest monumental power. It is a transformation that is particularly poignant right now in a country struggling over questions of identity with as much anguish, surely, as any nation in the world. If the architecture of the Reichstag represents a kind of Prussian hardness -- Germany as it was -- the wrapped version can almost be seen as an ideal symbol of the new Germany struggling to emerge from unification.
In any event, there could not be a better moment in history to wrap the Reichstag, if only because of the natural symbolism of unwrapping it now, a chrysalis out of which the new Germany may emerge. Though it was built only in 1884 to house the Parliament of the recently unified German empire, it is as redolent of history as any building in Berlin.
The building was burned in 1933 by an arsonist thought to have been paid by the Nazis, who blamed the fire on the Communists and used it as an excuse to restrict civil liberties. Though Nazis used the Reichstag for propaganda exhibitions rather than as a capital, its capture by the Russians became a symbol of the Allies' victory in the Battle of Berlin that led to the German surrender at the end of World War II.
The surroundings of the Reichstag are largely quiet, at the edge of the bleak void in the heart of Berlin left by the wall. The building looms over the Brandenburg Gate, more a shadowy mass in the distance than a part of the connective tissue of the city. Not the least of the accomplishments of the wrapping is to bring the Reichstag back into the mainstream of Berlin. An auto-free zone has been set up in the immediate area of the building, so the crowds are all on foot, making the area feel like a street fair. Cars, usually banned from passing under the Brandenburg Gate, are permitted to do so now to catch a distant glimpse of the wrapped building.
All of Berlin seems, in a sense, to have responded to this urban transformation. On the Friedrichstrasse in the former East Berlin a cosmetic-shop window display has a wrapped chair on which sit dozens of wrapped bottles of lotion; all through the city there are billboards advertising Berlin beer with a picture of wrapped bottles and the slogan "Just another Berlin masterpiece."
The advertising slogans prove, far more than the German Parliament's grudging acceptance, that Christo and Jean-Claude, who began as radical artists in the 1960's, have now become figures of the establishment.
So, too, does the size of the enterprise: a large office and a buffet restaurant have been set up in an adjacent building that once served as Hermann Goring's headquarters.
One simple buffet offers free meals to the workers, while invited guests -- art collectors, museum curators and friends of the Christos who seem this week to be pouring in from around the world -- can pay 80 marks (roughly $60) for a more elaborate lunch. Christo and Jean-Claude sit with invited guests, but make a point of getting their own food from the workers' line.
Most of the time, however, they are at the project site, driven in and out in a silver-gray Ford Windstar minivan that is precisely the color of the Reichstag wrapping on a cloudy day. (The car is to give them some protection from the crowds, they say.) They communicate constantly by walkie-talkie with the technical crews inside, and often go into the building to examine the intricate system of steel beams and cables that holds the fabric in place, or onto the roof to walk along the whitish snowscape that it has become. On Wednesday, Christo was ordering up pleats, nips and tucks in this huge object with the care of a tailor.
The artists are sensitive to suggestions that the real work is done by the technical employees, and they do not want to be thought of as merely Conceptual artists.
"The newspapers always write that Christo and Jean-Claude's assistants will wrap the Reichstag," Christo said yesterday. "Do they write that I. M. Pei's assistants made the pyramid at the Louvre? I have redesigned this building, I have made a new shape and a new structure to house the fabric, and I decide every drop and every fold in the fabric."
Jean-Claude added: "Everything has an esthetic purpose, to allow the fabric to cascade down from the roof in a particular way. Without this, it would be just a covered Reichstag. It would not be by us."