CULTURE & ARTS

Is Christo's Latest Masterpiece A Major Waste Of Money?

One Italian consumer group seems to think so.
People walk on the installation "€˜The Floating Piers"€™ on Lake Iseo by the Bulgarian artist Christo on June 8, 2016, in Ise
People walk on the installation "€˜The Floating Piers"€™ on Lake Iseo by the Bulgarian artist Christo on June 8, 2016, in Iseo, Italy.

Christo's latest piece, called "The Floating Piers," invites visitors to walk on water -- or at least on 200,000 polyethylene cubes covered in 100,000 square meters of shimmering, saffron-colored fabric floating on said water.

At no cost, the public can traverse Italy's Lake Iseo on foot via a glimmering, golden quilt, walking between the Italian mainland to two small islands, Monte Isola and San Paolo. The work, 40 years in the making, is a triumph of the creative imagination, offering viewers an admittedly useless but utterly enchanting aesthetic experience for free. 

Some, however, are wondering just how much a magical experience is worth these days. According to Art Daily, Italian consumer group Codacons announced it would file a complaint today with the Lombardy region's spending watchdog to investigate the cost of the installation.

Part of Christo's mission as an artist is to make all of his large-scale installation work free and accessible to all, with "The Floating Piers" open at no cost, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Codacons takes issue less with the $16.8 million budget of the work itself, which Christo funded through selling his own original works, but the more unexpected costs resulting from the piece's wild popularity. 

Last week, for example, over 3,000 people were left stranded at a train station in the nearby Italian city of Brescia while attempting to visit the massively overcrowded piece. Codacons claims the costs resulting from evacuating the tourists, cleaning up after the visitors and ensuring the safety of everyone involved are unsustainable. The group questions, furthermore, how such a project was greenlighted in the first place. 

"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," Codacons said in a statement.

Of course, this complaint is only heightening the already overwhelming attention "The Floating Piers" will receive, as thousands continue to flock to the destination that promises to let you experience magic for a single day. You may also experience extreme overcrowding, long lines, pushing, frustration, and potential abandonment at your local train station, but that's the price you pay when the actual price is free.

The piece opened to the public on Saturday, June 18, and will exist until July 3, 2016.

  • The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16.
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16.
  • The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16. 
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16. 
  • From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.
  • From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.
  • From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio. 
  • People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, kn
    Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
    People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Iseo, Italy.
  • People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, kn
    People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Iseo, Italy.
  • People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, kn
    Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
    People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Sulzano Village of Iseo Town, Brescia, Italy. Approximately 200,000 floating cubes were placed on the lake to make a runway connecting the village of Sulzano to the small island of Monte Isola on the Iseo Lake.
  • People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, kn
    Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
    People walk on the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev, known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Iseo, Italy.
  • A view of the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev. known a
    Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
    A view of the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev. known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Iseo, Italy.
  • A view of the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev. known a
    Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
    A view of the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev. known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Iseo, Italy.
  • A view of the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev. known a
    Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
    A view of the installation "The Floating Piers" on the Iseo Lake by the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Yavachev. known as Christo, on June 18, 2016 in Iseo, Italy.
  • From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    From the evening of June 15 to the evening of June 17, teams unfurl 100,000 square meters of shimmering dahlia-yellow fabric on the piers and pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.
  • Christo is watching a diver hooking a fabric panel to the side of a floating pier on June 15, 2016.
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    Christo is watching a diver hooking a fabric panel to the side of a floating pier on June 15, 2016.
  • Workers sew together two fabric panels with a portable sewing machine on June 15, 2016.
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    Workers sew together two fabric panels with a portable sewing machine on June 15, 2016.
  • The felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimas
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    The felt that will cover the cubes underneath the yellow fabric is transported from Montecolino to San Paolo island by Elimast Helicopter Service, May 2016.
  • At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Maggiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured over a period of eight m
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Maggiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured over a period of eight months before delivery to the work site in Montecolino, January 2016.
  • At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Maggiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured over a period of eight m
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
    At a factory in Fondotoce at Lago Maggiore, 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes are manufactured over a period of eight months before delivery to project work site in Montecolino, January 2016. 
  • During the life-size test at Montecolino, Christo is obviously delighted as the piers undulate with the movement of the waves
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz
    During the life-size test at Montecolino, Christo is obviously delighted as the piers undulate with the movement of the waves, Lake Iseo, October 2015.
  • Lake Iseo with the town of Sulzano in the foreground, the island of Monte Isola on the right and the island of San Paolo on t
    Photo: Wolfgang Volz
    Lake Iseo with the town of Sulzano in the foreground, the island of Monte Isola on the right and the island of San Paolo on the left.
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