Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art and Wrapped Floor and Stairway

Chicago
1968-69

If any building ever needed wrapping, it was Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, a banal, one-story edifice (with a below-ground gallery) having about as much architectural charm as an old shoe box. Built in the early 1900s, it had once been a bakery and, later, the headquarters of Playboy Enterprises.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude considered the building "perfect," because "it looks like a package already, very anonymous. Its façade is a fake wall covering the original structure." Although they had just wrapped the Kunsthalle Bern in translucent polypropylene, the artists decided "for aesthetic reasons" to shroud the Chicago museum in greenish-brown tarpaulin, which would give greater physical presence to the building and make a better contrast with the snow.

The wrapping commenced on January 15, 1969. Students from the school of the Chicago Art Institute of Design assisted for two days on the outside of the building, which was garbed in 10,000 square feet (930 square meters) of heavy tarpaulin and 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) of Manila rope. Every precaution was taken to assure the public’s safety. No exits were covered, no windows existed to cover, and small openings were cut in the tarpaulin to keep the building's air vents unobstructed. To be doubly safe, the museum's director, Jan van der Marck, prevailed upon Christo and Jeanne-Claude not to wrap the roof of the museum.

The finished package had a stateliness and sobriety that considerably enhanced the building. In contrast to the Bern Kunsthalle, with its translucent veil billowing like a loose summer garment, the Chicago museum was tightly swathed in heavy tarpaulins, as if bundled against the city's blustery winter winds and snow. As a finishing touch, Christo wrapped the vertical signpost outside the museum in transparent polyethylene.

In conjunction with the wrapping of the museum, the artists made a complementary work for the interior, Wrapped Floor and Stairway. The museum’s lower gallery had first been emptied of everything and then painted white. When the painters were through they removed their drop cloths and Christo and Jeanne-Claude laid 2,800 square feet (260 square meters) of their off-white drop cloth, secured with ropes. The cotton drop cloths had been carefully selected for their particular color and texture.

Excerpt from the book Christo by David Bourdon, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, New York, 1971. Edited in 2011.

Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago Packed (Project - 20,000 Square Foot)
Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago Packed (Project - 20,000 Square Foot)
Collage 1968
22 x 28" (56 x 71 cm)
Pencil, charcoal, crayon, fabric, twine, polyethylene and staples
Private collection
Photo: Archive
© 1968 Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Packed (Project)
Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Packed (Project)
Drawing 1968
28 x 22" (71 x 56 cm)
Pencil, charcoal and wax crayon
Photo: Eeva-Inkeri
© 1968 Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago Packed (Project)
Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago Packed (Project)
Collage 1968
26 5/8 x 20 7/8" (67.6 x 53 cm)
Pencil, tarpaulin, twine, polyethylene, photograph by Harry Shunk, wax crayon, cardboard and tape
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (Gift of Joseph and Jory Shapiro, Chicago)
Photo: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
© 1968 Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago - Packed
Christo
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago - Packed
Drawing 1968
40 x 60" (101.5 x 152.5 cm)
Pencil, wax crayon and charcoal
Photo: André Grossmann
© 1968 Christo
Wrapped Museum (Project for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
Christo
Wrapped Museum (Project for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
Scale model 1969
13 x 48 x 24" (33 x 122 x 61 cm)
Fabric, rope, twine, polyethylene, wood, cardboard and acrylic paint
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, Canada (Gift of Phyllis Lambert)
Photo: Michel Boulet
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Floor (Project for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
Christo
Wrapped Floor (Project for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
Drawing 1968
28 x 22" (71 x 56 cm)
Pencil, charcoal and crayon
Photo: Eeva-Inkeri
© 1968 Christo
Project for Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago
Christo
Project for Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago
Collage 1968
22 x 27 3/4" (56 x 70.5 cm)
Pencil, fabric, twine, wax crayon, paint and staples
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (Gift of the Permanent Collection Committee)
Photo: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
© 1968 Christo
Christo during the installation of Wrapped Floor and Stairway
Christo during the installation of Wrapped Floor and Stairway
1969
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo/Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
Wrapped Floor and Stairway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Floor and Stairway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Christo and Jeanne-Claude at Wrapped Floor and Stairway
Christo and Jeanne-Claude at Wrapped Floor and Stairway
1969
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Floor and Stairway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Floor and Stairway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo
Wrapped Floor and Stairway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Floor and Stairway, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1968-69
Photo: Shunk-Kender
© 1969 Christo