The Christo Chronicle

Friday, January 18, 2019

When Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped 2.5 kilometres of Sydney’s coastline with one million square feet of fabric, not only was it the largest artwork at that time in the world, but it was the first time an international artist had create a major public artwork in Australia.

Crowds flocked to Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet when it opened to the public in October 1969, but the groundbreaking installation began attracting attention from the media long before it was officially complete. Everyone from the New York Times to the Bulgarian Labor Newspaper were writing about the unprecedented endeavour, however, it was coverage closer to home that really caught our eye. With no shortage of puns, the Sydney Morning Herald covered Wrapped Coast extensively, including reviews, cartoons and ‘Wrap-up analysis’, all under a regular segment called The Christo Chronicle.

Tied up in bows, The Christo Chronicle logo had a distinctly festive feel, suggesting that something exciting was hidden from view under the poly-weave fabric enveloping Sydney’s coastline. With over 56 kilometres of orange polypropylene rope used to secure the fabric to the rock, the string motif is replicated throughout the press coverage for Wrapped Coast, including many cartoons which appear to be inspired by Christo’s preliminary collages.

Some critics approached the proposed packaging with bewilderment and, more often than not, humour, as the media tried to get their heads around Christo’s vision. Such was the unprecedented nature of the idea that images of an entirely shrouded Sydney appeared on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, some even questioning the sanity of those involved. However, criticism for Wrapped Coast subsided as people came to witness the prodigious sight and over $2000 was raised in admission donations for the hospital which still stands on the Little Bay site today. The work was a resounding success.

Upon completion of the project, it was announced that anyone could be a part of the much-anticipated unwrapping of the coast, taking the fabric and rope with them as a memento. Within twenty-four hours, several hundred people had stripped the cliffs bare of the plastic cloth that had concealed the landscape for several weeks. Many understood the significance of the fabric and rope as an artefact to be preserved: a symbol of the importance of this monumental moment in Australia’s cultural history.

Image 1: Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, October 8, 1969
Image 2: Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, October 15, 1969
Image 3: Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, October 2, 1969
Image 4: Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, November 22, 1969