Lot 13
  • 13


40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Christo
  • Wrapped Couch, Project
  • signed, titled and dated 1973
  • paper collage, fabric, polyethylene, twine, chalk, wax crayon, graphite and staples on card laid down on panel
  • 71.5 by 56cm.; 28 1/8 by 22in.


Acquired directly from the artist in 1976


Colour: The colour in the printed catalouge is fairly accurate, although there is less pink in the cream and it fails to fully convey the sculptural quality of the collage. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is a minor handling crease towards the lower left edge and minor wear to the bottom left corner. There is some minor discolouration in places to the glue.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Often working with his partner and artistic collaborator Jeanne-Claude, Christo is noted for his prolific work beginning in the 1960s, which involved the wrapping of recognisable objects to create intricately ambitious sculptures and installations. Later, the artist’s practice evolved to encompass monuments, buildings and geographical landmarks, with some of the most notable including the Wrapped Pont Neuf, The Gates in Central Park, the Wrapped Reichstag, and the Surrounded Islands in Biscayne Bay, garnering the artists media attention and widespread fame. With each project Christo has produced prolific plans, both elaborate and detailed, of which this work, Wrapped Couch, Project, is a beautifully accomplished example. Depicting a sofa bound with swathes of fabric, neatly punctuated at its distinguishing points with coarse rope, this masterfully rendered collage gives insight into the artist’s unending penchant to de-familiarise and re-represent the commonplace items that make up our lived environment. Since the birth of his practice Christo constantly questioned the boundaries and location of art, with the idea behind his projects not necessarily situated within the inherent nature of one wrapped object or beneath the veil he creates, but as a matter of the lived experience of the artist’s perception transmitted to the observer through his unique act of wrapping. As Christo has noted “the preparatory drawings have their own existence as works of art” (Christo, quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Høvikodden, The Henie-Onstad Art Centre, Christo, 1990, p. 13). Christo first began to wrap items of furniture in the late 1950s, at this time predominantly wrapping chairs stolen from his landlord on Il Saint-Louis in Paris. This later study from 1973 sees him nostalgically return to a much loved theme at a time of great personal and artistic development: 1973 was the year he became a US citizen and produced one of his most ambitious works of land art, Running Fence, which consisted of a veiled fence, 24.5 miles (39.4 km) long, that extended across the hills of Sonoma and Marin counties in northern California.

The wrapping of the couch imbues a sense of mystery, which was modified when the project was realised the following year. Here Christo left a portion of the couch partially revealed, heightening the latent inevitability – as with all Christo’s wrapping the viewer is always fully aware what really lies beneath. This distances his work from that of Man Ray, who pioneered this wrapped aesthetic with his covered sewing machine, The Enigma of Isidore Ducass, 1920. This highly evocative title invites sensational fantasies from the viewer regarding the substance of the veiled object. Alternatively, Christo offers a new perspective on recognisable objects of which we know their inherent character prior to the wrapping. Thus, he invites perceptive participation whilst resisting utilitarian engagement. As noted by Lawrence Alloway, “the function of these objects is interrupted by Christo at the level of use, not symbolism. He is not making the objects enigmatic or dreamlike; he is violating our operational relationship to the objects” (Lawrence Alloway, ‘Packages’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein and Martin-Gropius-Bau, Christo and Jeanne Claude: Early works 1958-1969, 2001, p. 56). Christo’s engagement is physical and behavioural, distanced from the underlying eroticism of Man Ray’s surrealism.

This is evinced here by the skilfully produced plan, diagrammatic in form yet imbued with sensual textures and stark chiaroscuro to substantiate the artist’s vision.  As noted by the eminent critic behind the development of Nouveau Réalisme, Pierre Restany “the marks he [Christo] creates here are first glance indications, the textile imprint of the way the artist perceived the object to be wrapped” (Pierre Restany, ‘Les Murmure des voiles: The whisper of the Veils’, in: Exhibition Catalogue, Nice, Muse d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Christo: from the Lilja Collection, 1989, p. 23). The idea of the package as the imprint of perception fits with the overriding Nouveau Réalisme: the logic of an industrial and urban approach to art which solidly binds the present work to wider themes represented within this collection.