A project that took 24 years to accomplish, Christo
's artwork "Wrapped Reichstag
" was initially proposed in 1971. The once and future capitol of Germany sat isolated in the shadow of the Berlin Wall
when Christo first proposed his concept. The Reichtag was built in 1894, burned by the Nazi
s in 1933 to become their casus belli
and rationale for Hitler
's ascension to power. It was almost destroyed in 1945 by Russian
artillery. The Reichstag sat unused from the end of WWII
until after the Cold War
The reason the project to wrap it in cloth took so long to accomplish was that it was initially derided by the German legislature. (Which does make some sense, depending how you look at art.) Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude approached many West German bureacrats and officials, but it wasn't until the country was united in the wake of the fall of the Wall and the Soviet Union that the legislature finally approved the request to wrap the Reichstag in cloth. One of the reasons the project was approved was for art's sake, but another was that the building was scheduled for a major renovation (as it would soon become again the place where the German government lived), and it was felt that it wouldn't hurt to cover it, as it would soon be immersed in construction scaffolding.
On the 17th of June in 1995, over one million square feet of silver cloth (over twice the actual surface area of the building) was draped over a 200-ton steel framework attached to the Reichstag's walls, and secured with over 50,000 feet of blue rope. The team of workers installing the artwork finished the project on the 24th. It was scheduled to be in place for only two weeks, the maximum amount of time Christo was able to secure from the legislature.
The project was an unqualified success, and drew crowds from all over Europe. It was so popular, the government asked Christo if he would leave it up. Remembering their earlier disdain, Christo insisted on taking it down after the scheduled period.
To minimalize vandalism, a team of volunter monitors watched the building around the clock and handed out small swatches of the leftover cloth. (I still have mine.) The cloth was recycled after the event, as planned. (It became carpet padding.) Entrepreneurs took pictures of tourists wrapped in cloth with the Reichstag in the background, a couple of protesting artists picketed the site with signs stating "this is not art", and a group of art students made a huge lizard puppet that they controlled with long sticks to appear as if it were crawling across the building's face (these weren't the only things going on, they are only the ones that stick in my mind outside of the memory of huge throngs of people.) It was the first major public event of the reunified Germany.
It was incredibly impressive, and can only be done justice by seeing it. A couple of sites dedicated to the project include the following: