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.