Artist Christo in divine stunt on Italian lake

World-renowned artist Christo may be 80, but he boasts the energy of a teenager: after creating umbrella forests, wrapping the Reichstag and decking Central Park in saffron, his new project will see audiences walk on water in Italy.

Artist Christo in divine stunt on Italian lake
Artist Christo's new project "The Floating Piers" will be staged at Lake Iseo in Italy. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

In more than 50 years, Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude – who died in 2009 but is still associated with his projects – created 22 monumental works.

Dozens more have been left in drawers after permits to enact them were refused.
“We have abandoned some, but others remained in our hearts and minds,” Christo said in an interview with AFP.
“The Floating Piers” is one of them. First conceived in 1970 for the River Plate delta in Argentina, the Christ-like scheme will finally come to life on the idyllic Lake Iseo in northern Italy, from June 18th to July 3rd.
For 16 days, visitors will be able to walk on three kilometres of floating pontoons across the lake, which will connect the islands of Monte Isola and San Paolo, with their picturesque hamlets and Roman ruins, to each other and the mainland.

Stunning: Lake Iseo, near Brescia in Lombardy.Photo: Visual07/Flickr
Made of 200,000 recyclable polyethylene cubes linked by 200,000 giant screws, the piers will be covered with a dahlia-yellow fabric made of tightly woven nylon designed to change tone as the sun sets and become an intense red when wet.
“All our projects are related to physical sensations. I do not like computers, I do not want to talk on the phone. I am related to things viscerally, not virtually,” said an animated Christo, a lean figure topped with a shock of white hair.
“Walking on very small paths covered with canvas, a very solid surface, all of a sudden you start walking on water,” said the Bulgarian-born artist with American citizenship, adding that the experience is something “you have to feel”.

Piers and islands

“Floating Piers” is the first work by Christo since 2005, when he created “The Gates” in New York's Central Park with Jeanne-Claude, an installation of 7,500 saffron cloth arches which drew four million visitors.

Forced to abandon the aquatic walkways in Argentina, then again in Japan due to permit troubles, the piers exhibition got the go-ahead in just two years in Italy, thanks to the enthusiasm of local officials and inhabitants.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, both born June 13th, 1935, brought three projects to Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, including an installation on Milan's Cathedral square in which they wrapped a monument to King Vittorio Emanuele.
The couple first rose to fame for their eye-catching packaging of famous landmarks like the Pont Neuf across the Seine in Paris in 1985 and Berlin's Reichstag in 1995 – a project which took 25 years of bureaucratic wrangling to get off the ground.
An exhibition which focuses mainly on their previous water-based works – complete with preparatory drawings, models, photographs and films – is being shown at the Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia near Lake Iseo until September 18th.
The display of creations since the early 1960s includes “Surrounded Islands”, tree-covered gems in Biscayne Bay in Florida that the artists hemmed with pink fabric in 1983, creating a vast water lily effect.
“Floating Piers” comes with a price-tag of some €10 million and is financed as usual by Christo through the sale of preparatory drawings and models.
The artist has two other projects up his sleeve, though he has run into permit trouble here too. In the first, thought up in 1992, he wants to suspend 10 kilometres (six miles) of silvery fabric over the Colorado River in the United States.
The second would see him create a 150-metre-high (490 feet), flat-topped pyramid out of 410,000 multicoloured oil barrels in the desert near Abu Dhabi.
Conceived in 1977, “The Mastaba” would be the tallest project in his career and the only one of Christo's installations to be permanent.

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?