In 1963, still in Paris, Christo had begun making the Show Cases. He acquired small glass display cases or medicine cabinets at the flea market and turned their function around by hanging fabric or pasting paper on the inside of the panes. In some cases he illuminated the inside of the showcases with a light bulb or suggested luxurious decadence by lining the inside with satin or silk.
If the Show Cases were more like little meditations comparable to the early Wrapped Cans or Packages, the proportions of the life-sized Show Windows and Store Fronts that were done after Christo and Jeanne-Claude had emigrated to New York in 1964 recalled the gigantic dimensions of New York architecture.
Made out of architectural elements found in scrap heaps and the remnants of demolished buildings, the first Store Fronts have surfaces with a patina that exude the charm of the old and used. What Christo reveals to the observer is no more than a pretence. The display windows of the suggested stores are draped with fabric or wrapping paper and the doors are securely locked.
In 1965, a decisive change occurred in the design of Christo's Store Fronts. The charm of hand-craft gave way to an industrial frigidity, the warm color tones of previous Store Fronts changing into cold and clinically polished metallic surfaces.
The Show Cases, Show Windows and Store Fronts have elements that have been carried throughout the artists' career. The curtains of fabric draped on the inside of the panes can be seen as forerunners of such projects as the Valley Curtain, the Running Fence or The Gates. The brown wrapping paper that is used in some of the works anticipate the Covered Windows at the Museum Haus Lange. Also, the Show Cases, Show Windows and Store Fronts are the first works not to include wrapping. The outer structures are not hidden but function as independent sculptures. While smaller objects were prevalent in the early 1960s, from 1964 Christo and Jeanne-Claude's interest turned into altering whole rooms and environments.
Excerpt from the book Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Early Works 1958-64 by Matthias Koddenberg (Bönen: Kettler, 2009). Edited by the author in 2011.