Consumer Group Slams Christo Piers

ROME.- An Italian consumer group said Saturday it suspected artist Christo's popular floating walkway on a lake had involved an unreasonable waste of public money.

The organization Codacons said it would be filing a complaint to the Lombardy region's spending watchdog on Monday.

"The Floating Piers" has been a smash hit with the public with visitors flocking to experience the three-kilometer-long (1.9-mile) walkway of 200,000 floating cubes on Lake Iseo since it opened on June 18.

But according to Codacons, the huge cost of cleaning up after tens of thousands of visitors and ensuring their safety made it questionable whether the art installation should have been authorized.

"We want to know how much taxpayers' money has been spent on a project which, until now, seems to have generated enormous publicity for the artist without bringing direct benefits to local entities and citizens," the organization said in a statement.

Organizers of the installation this week announced they would have to close the walkway at night because it is being worn out faster than expected.

The numbers of people who have come to walk on the free installation have so far exceeded organizers' expectations, who estimated around 500,000 would visit over the 16 days and nights it was due to be open. Some 270,000 turned up in the first five days.

In place through July 3, 2016 (weather permitting), the installation enables Lake Iseo visitors to walk on it from Sulzano to Monte Isola and to the island of San Paolo, which is framed by The Floating Piers. The mountains surrounding the lake offer a bird’s-eye view of The Floating Piers, exposing unnoticed angles and altering perspectives. Lake Iseo is located 100 kilometers east of Milan and 200 kilometers west of Venice.

The piers are 16 meters wide and approximately 35 centimeters high with sloping sides. The fabric continues along 2.5 kilometers of pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.

“Those who experience The Floating Piers will feel like they are walking on water – or perhaps the back of a whale,” said Christo. “The light and water will transform the bright yellow fabric to shades of red and gold throughout the sixteen days.”

In the spring and summer of 2014, Christo, Vladimir Yavachev – Operations Director, Wolfgang Volz – Project Manager, and Josy Kraft – Registrar/Curator, scouted the lakes of Northern Italy. Along with Project Director Germano Celant, they found Lake Iseo to be the most inspiring location. Since that time they have worked alongside team members from around the world to realize The Floating Piers.

The Floating Piers was first conceived by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009) together in 1970. It is Christo’s first large-scale project since Christo and Jeanne-Claude realized The Gates in 2005, and since Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009. As with all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects, The Floating Piers is funded entirely through the sale of Christo’s original works of art. After the 16-day exhibition, all components will be removed and industrially recycled.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have had a long history of creating projects in Italy: Wrapped Fountain and Wrapped Medieval Tower in Spoleto, 1968; Wrapped Monuments in Milan, 1970; and The Wall – Wrapped Roman Wall in Rome, 1973–74.

Bulgarian artist Christo, 81, is famed for works on a massive scale, including wrapping the Berlin Reichstag in fabric in 1995.

The Floating Piers is free and open to the public, we unfortunately cannot guarantee 24/7 access due to weather and other factors. Visitors are encouraged to check the forecast, as rain and strong winds can limit access to the project.

Photo above: Christo, Floating Piers (Project). Drawing 2014, 8 7/8 x 13 3/4" (22.5 x 34.9 cm). Pencil, charcoal and pastel. Photo: André Grossmann © 2014 Christo.