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Christo Gets Permission To Wrap The Pont Neuf In Cloth

July 28, 1985

PARIS (AP) _ After wrapping Chicago’s Museum of Modern Art, part of the Australian coastline and 11 of Florida’s Bay of Biscayne islands in plastic, artist Christo has won permission to wrap Paris’ historic Pont Neuf in 430,000 square feet of cloth.

It will become, he says, ″provisionally, and for everyone, a giant sculpture.″

On Sept. 23, Parisians accustomed to the sober lines of their oldest bridge will discover it shrouded in stone-colored cloth down to the waterline of its six piers, the fabric held in place with rope like a gigantic parcel.

Bulgarian-born Christo Javacheff, 50, known professionally by his first name, has been working on the ″sculpture″ since 1976, and says it will probably cost about $2.1 million.

While it will remain open to river, road and pedestrian traffic, said Christo, the bridge which has inspired so many painters ″will become a work of art itself.″

How long the bridge would remain wrapped was not disclosed.

Christo says he refuses all patronage or official aid, with ″the dynamic of the project″ allowing financing through the sale of his preparatory sketches.

About 100 people have been working on the project since June, he told the Paris newspaper Le Matin in an article printed Saturday, including carpenters, river workers, alpine guides, ropemakers, stone experts and tree fellers.

The Pont Neuf, 780 feet long and 65 feet wide, is a stone bridge whose vaulted arches span the Seine. It was built from 1578 to 1604.

Christo first got permission from Mayor Jacques Chirac of Paris in 1982, provisional on the agreement of the national government. Last week, he said, Culture Minister Jack Lang, who has supported the scheme, reported President Francois Mitterrand was ″enthusiastic″ about it, the final seal of approval.

Christo, who lived in Paris from 1958 to 1964 before settling in New York, wanted in 1969 to wrap all the trees on the Champs Elysees, but could not get permission.

Then he eyed Gustav Eiffel’s ornate Alexandre III bridge, only to realize quickly that ″it was an ordinary bridge with a single span and far from the center of Paris, far from Notre Dame.″

So he decided on the Pont Neuf, as having ″a sculptural form that wrapping will enhance.″

″The cloth, by its weight, should accentuate the form of the bridge. It needs very strong rope to obtain that effect. The folds will give an accentuated dynamism to the bridge,″ Christo explained.

″The dirt, wear and decorations on the bridge, by effacing its proportions, have hidden it from the casual glance.

″With the brilliant cloth, the Pont Neuf will become luminous. There is something more than the formal aspect. I am highlighting the significance of this bridge,″ he said.

″It has historically been associated with strolling, leading to the Vert Galant,″ a tiny midstream park, ″(and) the project does not reject strollers, on the contrary, it invites them to linger, to regard the sky and the water.

″There is no aggressivity whatever in wrapping,″ said Christo.

The color of the cloth, described as like ″Ile de France stone″ from the greater Paris area, will not be unusual in the heart of the city and ″will remain beautiful in overcast weather as well as sunshine,″ he said.

″It is my most urban project,″ he commented, though he has been trying to gain permission to wrap West Berlin’s Reichstag building since 1972. He also described it as his most ″civilized″ and said he had succeeded ″with sculptures which were more complicated to erect.″

There will be competition for Christo and his Pont Neuf project only a few hundred yards down the Seine, however.

In late September, half the vast facade of the old Orsay railroad station, fronting the river and being transformed into a museum, will be covered with cloth to hide stone-cleaning. Belgian artist Jean Verame will paint an abstract mural on the 5,400-square-foot cloth.

Verame made his name painting vast stretches of the Sinai desert and Corsican uplands in brilliant colors.

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