October 11, 2015


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Lot 319: Christo

Lot 319: Christo

Wrapped Payphone

Steel payphone wrapped in canvas, polyethylene, twine, and rope
#8 of 30
Published by Edition Schellmann, Munich and New York
Signed and dated with edition verso
21" x 8" x 6.5"
Provenance: Edition Schellmann, Munich, Germany;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above)
Literature: Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Prints and Objects, 1963-1995: A Catalogue Raisonné. 2nd ed. J. Benecke and J. Schellmann, eds. 1995. #139.
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000
Inventory Id: 20318

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As masters of the grand gesture, the married duo Christo (b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (1935–2009) arguably invented the practice of supersized environmental art with their audacious and visually enthralling installations, involving logistics of epic proportions. They stretched a 365-foot-high curtain across a valley in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado in 1972; surrounded 11 islands with pink fabric in Biscayne Bay, Florida (1983); and hung more than 7,500 saffron-colored drapery panels across pathways in Central Park (The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979–2005). Christo and Jeanne-Claude's projects often included a transformative aspect: they altered the identity and nature of landmarks and public institutions by wrapping them as if they were packages, concealed in plastic or fabric. They've done so to a Parisian bridge, national buildings and monuments, museums, a church, and more. Though ephemerality was a central component to their installations (made to provoke intense and memorable experiences), Christo and Jeanne-Claude did make some lasting sketches and diagrams to sell.

Wrapped Payphone (1988) is a rare find–a tangible sculpture from a small edition. In collaboration with the German art publisher Edition Schellman, the artist wrapped household objects such as shoes, paint cans, and bottles. In one stroke, Christo's Wrapped Payphone both recalls his early works of the 1950s and 1960s, and the mature environmental installations he realized with Jeanne-Claude. True to form, he wraps another, albeit smaller, public institution–the once ubiquitous New York payphone.

But while the public payphone itself has diminished in significance, the significance of this piece has only increased. Today, in the era of digital information and personal mobile phones, amid concerns over privacy, and identity theft, Christo's Wrapped Payphone now might lend itself to more interpretations and associations than on the day it was made.

Christo, Paul Goldberger, Jonathan Henery, Jeanne-Claude, and Wolfgang Volz. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: 75. Köln: Taschen, 2010. Print.