Famed artist invites public to walk on water at Italian lake

Wearing dark wellington boots, a red and black all-weather coat, jeans and a smart striped shirt, Christo - as he is universally known - crossed his hands while standing in the middle of Lake Iseo in northern Italy.

Famed artist invites public to walk on water at Italian lake
'The Floating Piers' at Lake Iseo will allow people to walk on water. Photo: Facebook

All that separated him and the vast body of water was 200,000 floating orange cubes that create a three kilometre-long (1.9 miles) runway that connects the village of Sulzano to the small island of Monte Isola on the lake.

“It's a very physical project, you need to go there (to understand it),” he said on Thursday of the project called “The Floating Piers” which will open to the public from June 18th to July 3rd.

“It's not a painting, it's not a sculpture. You need to walk on it… feel it with the sun, with the rain, with the wind. It's physical, not virtual.”

First conceived in 1970 for the River Plate delta in Argentina, the Christ-like project that Christo, 81, devised with his late wife Jeanne-Claude has finally been resurrected.

Despite the long delay in realizing his vision Christo said the project, his first since 2005, “stayed in our hearts”.

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 nearby residents.

Photo: Facebook

Made of 200,000 recyclable polyethylene cubes linked by 200,000 giant screws, the piers are 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.

This is not Christo's first artistic outing in Italy.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, both born June 13th, 1935, brought three projects to the country 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 almost a quarter of a century of bureaucratic wrangling to get off the ground.

'Artists do not retire, they die'

Describing his passion for reimagining objects with audacious wrapping and packaging, Christo said: “I don't like to talk on the telephone, I don't know how to drive cars… I'm interested (in the) real thing.”

“The Floating Piers” cost €15 million ($16.7 million) to create but will be free to the public and is expected to attract 500,000 visitors by the time it closes.

It was funded as is typical for Christo's works by the sale of his blueprints and design models.

Local businesses are already hoping to cash-in on the cultural phenomenon described by The New York Times as one of the “musts” of the year.

Michele Pescali, a bakery owner based close to the lake, has created a line of “Christo biscuits” for the occasion made of pastry covered with jam and orange peel reminiscent of the artificial pontoons.

Some visitors like Almut and Walter Horstmann from Germany arrived days early so as not to miss the final stage of installation.

“We wanted to see the construction work. We already saw the Reichstag, the wrapped trees in Basel, the wall of oil barrels, the Oberhausen gas holder in Germany,” said Walter, 75.

He described Christo's latest feat as “fantastic, with this mix of water, countryside, colour and fabric”.

And fans of the octogenarian genius need not fear that Christo is winding down.

He is now thought to be awaiting approval for two projects, one in the US and the other in Abu Dhabi.

Asked if he plans to hang up his welly boots and settle down, he said simply: “Artists do not retire, they die.”

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The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.